Michael Peacock (television executive)
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After graduating with a degree in sociology from the London School of Economics, Michael Peacock joined BBC Television in 1952 as a trainee producer, working 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 the Corporation's first weekly current affairs programme Panorama at the age of just twenty-five. Under his editorship the programme became hugely popular, and 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 1959 he was promoted to Editor of Television News, and continued to produce coverage of special events such as the 1959 General Election. He remained in this post until 1963, when he was appointed the first Controller of BBC 2, which did not launch until April 1964.
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.
Since then, Peacock has been MD of Warner Bros TV Ltd in London, followed by 2 years (1974-76) in Burbank, California as Exec. VP Warner Bros TV Inc. He was a founding partner in Video Arts with John Cleese, Antony Jay and Peter Robinson. He was Chief Exec. of Video Arts TV, and later of Dumbarton Films until 1989.
|Controller of BBC 2
|Controller of BBC 1