Michael Buerk

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Michael Buerk
Michael Buerk, British Museum, London, 23 June 2012 - Britain's Secret Treasures Filming.jpg
Buerk during the filming for Britain's Secret Treasures at the British Museum, London, on 23 June 2012
Born Michael Duncan Buerk
(1946-02-18) 18 February 1946 (age 68)
Solihull, West Midlands (county)
Education Secondary: Solihull School, University: University of Sussex and UWI Cardiff
Occupation TV presenter, newsreader and journalist
Notable credit(s) BBC News
999 Lifesavers
Pineapple Dance Studios
Spouse(s) Christine
Children Roland

Michael Duncan Buerk (born 18 February 1946) is a British journalist and newsreader. His reporting of the Ethiopian famine on 23 October 1984 inspired the Band Aid charity record and, subsequently, the Live Aid concert. He has been the host of BBC Radio 4's The Moral Maze since 1990.

Early life[edit]

Buerk was born in Solihull,[1] and was educated at Solihull School, an Independent school in the West Midlands where he was a member of the Combined Cadet Force and represented the school on the sports field.

Michael Buerk's hopes of a career in the Royal Air Force were dashed when he failed an eyesight test at the selection centre. After a brief spell as a hod carrier[2] he began his career in journalism with the Bromsgrove Messenger, South Wales Echo (where he shared a house with Sue Lawley in Cardiff), and the Daily Mail, he joined Radio Bristol in 1970 before becoming a reporter for BBC News in 1973.

Reporter and newsreader[edit]

He was awarded the Golden Nymph award at the Monte Carlo festival for his reports on the famine from Korem in Ethiopia, first broadcast on 23 October 1984.[3] The footage of the famine was shot by Mohamed Amin. He later said that the broadcast was one of "the most influential pieces of television ever broadcast [prompting] a surge of generosity across the world for Ethiopia[that raised] more than $130 million". Another notable bulletin he is renowned for is being the first news reporter on the BBC News in the 2000s, making the bulletin at 0100 GMT on the 1 January 2000.[4]

From 1983 until 1987, Buerk was the BBC's South Africa correspondent during the dying years of apartheid in South Africa. Buerk's uncompromising reports on the brutalities of the regime resulted in the South African government expelling him from the country after four years in the post.[5][6]

Buerk has worked for

During the 2001 Oscars, Buerk commented live on air that the BBC's arts correspondent Rosie Millard was wearing the 'best supporting dress'.[7]

On the BBC's Children in Need Buerk has performed several times along with an ensemble of BBC News presenters. In 2004 he dressed in leather to perform Duran Duran classics; in 2005 he sang the Queen song "Bohemian Rhapsody". He was sometimes imitated by Jon Culshaw on Dead Ringers.

In 1991, he was awarded an Honorary Degree (MA) by the University of Bath.[8]

Michael Buerk's life and career has been the subject of a comedy musical, Buerk! The Newsical which debuted in London at the Network Theatre in May 2013.[9][10]


Michael Buerk with Bettany Hughes during the filming of Britain's Secret Treasures

In 2010, he narrated Sky1 reality show Pineapple Dance Studios. Buerk has also made five guest appearances on the BBC's The One Show in April and September 2010. He has also appeared as a sit in/cover presenter for Jason Manford on six occasions.

In July 2012, he began to co-present a series on ITV called Britain's Secret Treasures alongside Bettany Hughes, looking at fifty of the most remarkable archaeological finds made by the British public. The show returned for a second series in October 2013.

On 6 October 2013, he began hosting Inside the National Trust, a new Sunday afternoon documentary series.

Other work[edit]

In 2013, Buerk voiced a Marmite advert in which spoof rescue teams rescue lost forgotten jars at the back of cupboards and fridges and despite receiving a number of complaints the advert still continues.[11]

Charity work[edit]

On 28 July 2007, Buerk appeared on a special celebrity version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? with Jennie Bond to raise money for NCH, the children's charity. With a combined effort, they raised £64,000. He is also a supporter of the British Red Cross[12] and in October 2008 came out in support of an Alternate Reality Game, Traces of Hope, which the charity developed.[13]


Buerk asserted in a Radio Times interview in August 2005 that the "shift in the balance of power between the sexes" has gone too far and that men are now little more than "sperm donors".[14] In particular, he objected to the many women now in senior positions within the BBC, echoing the outburst the previous year by sacked former Director General, Alasdair Milne. This was in anticipation of Buerk's 45-minute TV-essay, "Michael Buerk on What Are Men For?" as part of Five's six-part Don't Get Me Started! series, broadcast on Tuesday 23 August 2005. The reaction to "What Are Men For?" was quite severe, criticising in particular Buerk's choices of sympathetic interview subjects, including "an odious chauvinistic farmer" and "a ridiculous Sloane" according to Guardian journalist Sam Wollaston.[15] Buerk has also criticised contemporary newsreaders for being overpaid Autocue-reading "lame brains".[16] At the end of 2012 he despaired of the state of Britain, and of the BBC. Of the Corporation's coverage of the Thames River Pageant celebrating Britain and the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne, he wrote: "The Dunkirk Little Ships, the most evocative reminders of this country’s bravest hour, were ignored so that a pneumatic bird-brain from Strictly Come Dancing could talk to transvestites in Battersea Park."[17][18]

Personal life[edit]

Buerk lives in Guildford with his wife, with whom he has twin sons. One of his sons, Roland, who is also a BBC journalist, survived the South Asian tsunami on Boxing Day 2004,[19] and was also in Tokyo when the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami struck.[20] On 18 July 2013 he was awarded an honorary "Doctor of the University" degree at Surrey University's awards ceremony in Guildford Cathedral.


  1. ^ "Author Spotlight". Randomhouse.ca. Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  2. ^ Michael Buerk (2005). The Road Taken. Arrow Books. ISBN 978-0-09-946137-1. 
  3. ^ "1984: Extent of Ethiopia famine revealed". BBC News. 1984-10-23. Retrieved 2013-01-22. 
  4. ^ "The Road Taken, An Autobiography", Michael Buerk, Hutchinson, 2004
  5. ^ "CV; MICHAEL BUERK Newscaster and presenter of `999'". The Independent (London). 23 June 1997. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  6. ^ "Michael Buerk". BBC News. 3 January 2003. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  7. ^ Terri Judd, As Buerk signs off, who will take BBC news hot seat?, The Independent, 8 June 2002
  8. ^ "Honorary Graduates 1989 to present". bath.ac.uk. University of Bath. Retrieved 18 February 2012. 
  9. ^ Promotional website Buerk! The Newsical
  10. ^ Entertainment focus Buerk! The Newsical review
  11. ^ "Marmite TV advert draws widespread complaints". bbc.co.uk. 7 August 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2013. 
  12. ^ "Celebrity update 2006". Redcross.org.uk. Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  13. ^ "Michael Buerk – British Red Cross". Redcross.org.uk. Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  14. ^ "Buerk attacks women broadcasters". BBC News. 16 August 2005. Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  15. ^ Sam Wollaston (24 August 2005). "Murder he wrote". Guardian (UK). Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  16. ^ News veterans weigh in over 'dumbo' presenters[dead link]
  17. ^ Michael Buerk "2012: The year we felt that golden glow of resurgent Middle England (And not even my cringingly inept BBC could shatter the illusion)", Mail on Sunday, 30 December 2012
  18. ^ Caroline Davies "Michael Buerk savages BBC's coverage of Queen's diamond jubilee", guardian.co.uk, 30 October 2012
  19. ^ BBC journalist marries the girlfriend who saved him from tsunami
  20. ^ "Tsunami hits Japan after massive quake". BBC. 11 March 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-11. 

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