Michael Peacock (television executive)

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Michael Peacock (born Christchurch, Hants. 1929) is a former British television executive, who from 1963 until the spring of 1965 was the first ever Controller of BBC 2, the Corporation's second television channel.

After graduating with an upper second class degree in sociology from the [London School of Economics in 1952, Michael Peacock immediately joined BBC Television in as a trainee producer, working under Grace Wyndham Goldie in the Television Talks Department, based at Alexandra Palace, which moved to the Lime Grove Studios the following year. In 1955 he become the producer of Panorama the Corporation's first weekly TV current affairs series at the age of just twenty-six. Under his editorship with Richard Dimbleby as anchorman the programme became very popular, and during the Suez crisis in 1956 audiences reached 12 million viewers.It was he who masterminded what is still its most remembered story, a world famous April Fool's Day 'Joke' which fooled many viewers into believing that spaghetti grew on trees.

In 1958 he was appointed Assistant Head of Television Outside Broadcasts with the brief to develop documentary OBs. In 1959 he returned to Panorama where ratings had fallen badly. He recruited a new team of reporters including Robert Kee and James Mossman and restored ratings to the 8-10 million level. In 1959 Michael Peacock and Donald Baverstock, with Ian Atkins, were given the daunting task of reporting how to improve BBC TV News. Their recommendations were accepted in full, and in 1960 he was he was promoted to Editor of Television News based at Alexander Palace. He remained in this post until 1963, when he was appointed Chief of Programmes (BBC-2). His task was to lead the launch of the BBC's second channel due to begin transmissions in 625line UHF in April 1964.[1]

During the first year of BBC-2 he oversaw the screening of some notable successes such as the 26 part documentary series The Great War, Match of the Day and the sitcom The Likely Lads, but audiences for the new channel were very small. In 1965, he was moved across to be Controller of the more mainstream BBC 1, to which it was felt his talents would be more suited. This makes Peacock one of only three people (the others being Alan Yentob and Michael Jackson) ever to have been Controller of both of earliest BBC television channels..

Under Peacock, BBC-1 became a channel at the peak of one of its most successful eras. However, his time in the post was barely longer than his tenure at BBC-2. This was because in 1967 he was head-hunted to be the first Managing Director of London Weekend Television, which began transmissions in 1968. However, his time at LWT was frustrated by union problems, conflict with the other ITV contractors who objected to the new company's 'high brow' London-centric programming and ratings which were lower than anticipated. He was fired by the company in 1969 and ten senior programme staff resigned in support, including several who had left the BBC with him.

In 1971 Peacock joined Warner Bros TV Ltd as MD in London, making co-productions with BBC TV and ITV. Perhaps his most successful was David Attenborough's Life on Earth. He was a founding partner in Video Arts with Antony Jay, John Cleese and Peter Robinson which they formed to make training films for the world market. By the early 1980s, Video Arts was the largest producer of training films in the world, with more than a hundred films in its catalogue.

In 1974, Peacock was invited to become Executive Vice President of Warner Bros TV Inc which meant moving with his family for 2 years to work in Burbank, California.

On his return to the UK he developed the TV side of Video Arts. He was Chief Exec. of Video Arts TV,and when Milton Friedman chose VATV to produce his " Free to Choose" series, Peacock was the Executive producer with Michael Latham his line producer.

He helped to found Manchester's Piccadilly Radio in 1974, and was a director until 1987. He was Chairman of Unique Broadcasting Co. from 1989, and of UBC Media Group plc until 1995.

Media offices
Preceded by
New position
Controller of BBC 2
1964-1965
Succeeded by
David Attenborough
Preceded by
Donald Baverstock
Controller of BBC 1
1965-1967
Succeeded by
Paul Fox

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Corrections and clarifications". The Guardian. 11 April 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2011.