George Alagiah

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George Alagiah

Hadrian Wall Fair Trade Launch (3330237211).jpg
Alagiah at the launch of Fairtrade's
Hadrian's Wall, 2009
George Maxwell Alagiah

(1955-11-22) 22 November 1955 (age 64)
Other namesThe Pariah, Easy George, Gorgeous George
Alma materVan Mildert College, University of Durham
OccupationJournalist, presenter, newsreader, author
EmployerBritish Broadcasting Corporation
Notable credit(s)
BBC News at Six
World News Today
BBC News
BBC World News
Frances Robathan (m. 1984)
ChildrenAdam, Matthew

George Maxwell Alagiah OBE (/ˌæləˈɡə/ born 22 November 1955) is a British newsreader, journalist and television news presenter.

Since 3 December 2007, he has been the presenter of the BBC News at Six and has also been the main presenter of GMT on BBC World News since its launch on 1 February 2010. He is also the main relief presenter for the BBC Ten O'Clock News and has held this role since its launch in 2000, making him the longest serving presenter of the flagship news programme.


Alagiah was born in Colombo, Ceylon. His parents, Donald Alagiah, an engineer, and Therese, were Sri Lankan Tamil.[1][2] In 1961, his parents moved to Ghana in West Africa, where he had his primary education at Christ the King International School.[3] His secondary education took place at St John's College, an independent Roman Catholic school in Portsmouth, England, after which he read politics at Van Mildert College, Durham University.[3] Whilst at Durham, he wrote for and became editor of the student newspaper Palatinate and was a sabbatical officer of Durham Students' Union. He worked on South Magazine from 1982 until joining the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), where he was the Developing World correspondent based in London and then Southern Africa correspondent in Johannesburg.[3]

In 2004, he returned to his grandfather's original home in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami to survey the damage.[3] The family's former home had been destroyed, but he was able to recognise an old well where he had played with his sisters, although the well was unsalvageable.[citation needed]

Broadcasting career[edit]

Alagiah joined the BBC in 1989 after seven years in print journalism with South Magazine.[4] Before going behind the studio desk, he was one of the BBC's leading foreign correspondents, reporting on events ranging from the genocide in Rwanda to the plight of the Marsh Arabs in southern Iraq to the civil wars in Afghanistan, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Somalia.[3]

He was the presenter of BBC Four News from its launch in 2002; the programme was later relaunched as The World. In January 2003 he joined the BBC Six O'Clock News, which he co-presented with Sophie Raworth until October 2005, and with Natasha Kaplinsky until October 2007. Since 3 December 2007, he has been the sole presenter of the Six O'Clock News. Prior to that, he had been the deputy anchor of the BBC One O'Clock News and BBC Nine O'Clock News from 1999. Since 3 July 2006, he has presented World News Today on BBC World News and BBC Two, which was rebranded GMT on 1 February 2010. He is also a relief presenter on BBC News at Ten presenting mainly Monday to Thursday when Fiona Bruce is unavailable.

A specialist on Africa and the developing world, Alagiah has interviewed, among others, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan and President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.[3] His other documentaries and features include reports on why affirmative action in America is a 'Lost Cause', for the Assignment programme, Saddam Hussein's genocidal campaign against the Kurds of northern Iraq for the BBC's Newsnight programme and a report on the last reunion of the veterans of Dunkirk.[4]

He earns £250,000 - £299,999 as a BBC presenter.[5]

Awards and interests[edit]

In 2000, Alagiah was part of the BBC team which collected a BAFTA award for its coverage of the Kosovo conflict. He has won numerous awards including Best International Report at the Royal Television Society in 1993 and in 1994 was the overall winner of the Amnesty International UK Media Awards. He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours.

His appearances at literary festivals include Cheltenham, Keswick, Hay-on-Wye and London, and he has spoken at the Royal Geographical Society, the Royal Society of Arts and at the Royal Overseas League. He is on the Board of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

From 2002 to 2009, Alagiah was a patron of the Fairtrade Foundation[6] from which in July 2009, he was obliged to resign by BBC Management who claimed professional conflict of interest.[7][8] Complaints were received at the BBC from the public who were unhappy that Alagiah had been asked to step down. The BBC responded that in keeping with its principles of impartiality, it would be inappropriate for one of its leading journalists to be seen supporting a movement that clearly represents a controversial view of global trade.[9][10] He has also been actively involved in supporting microfinance as a tool for development, including recent appearances in support of Opportunity International. He has been a patron of Parenting UK since 2000.

In 2010, he received the Outstanding Achievement in Television award at the Asian Awards.[11]

Personal life[edit]

He is married to Frances Robathan, whom he met at Durham University.[12] The couple have two children, Adam and Matthew.[2]

On 17 April 2014, it was announced that Alagiah was being treated for colorectal cancer.[13] A statement from the BBC said: "He is grateful for all the good wishes he has received thus far and is optimistic for a positive outcome." On 28 June, Alagiah announced on Twitter that he was making "encouraging progress".[14] Finally, in late October 2015, he announced on Twitter that the treatment was officially over and he subsequently returned to the BBC on 10 November.[15][16] However, in January 2018 it emerged that the cancer had returned and he would undergo further treatment.[17][18]

In March 2018, in an interview with The Sunday Times, Alagiah noted that his cancer was terminal and could have been caught earlier if the screening programme in England, which is automatically offered from the age of 60, was the same as that in Scotland, where it is automatically offered from the age of 50.[12][19]


  1. ^ Revoir, Paul (13 March 2009). "BBC presenter in hot water for comparing Sri Lankan-born newsreader George Alagiah to a chimp". Daily Mail. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
  2. ^ a b Gupte, Pranay (6 June 2006). "Coming Soon to America With News of the World". New York Sun. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "BBC Press Office: George Alagiah". Retrieved 25 July 2010.
  4. ^ a b "NewsWatch: George Alagiah". BBC News. 26 June 2006. Retrieved 28 December 2006.
  5. ^ "BBC pay: How much do its stars earn?". BBC News. 19 July 2017.
  6. ^ "A message from George Alagiah". Fairtrade Foundation. Archived from the original on 28 September 2009. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
  7. ^ "Statement On George Alagiah as Patron of the Fairtrade Foundation". Fairtrade Foundation. 5 August 2009. Archived from the original on 11 August 2009. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
  8. ^ "Alagiah asked to quit charity job". BBC News. 4 August 2009. Retrieved 3 May 2010.
  9. ^ Holmwood, Leigh (17 August 2009). "BBC move on George Alagiah's Fairtrade role brings 200 complaints". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 3 May 2010.
  10. ^ BBC Complaints retrieved 25 June 2010
  11. ^ "The Asian Awards Winners List". PR Newswire. 3 November 2010.
  12. ^ a b Templeton, Sarah-Kate (25 March 2018). "Newsreader George Alagiah: If only I'd had the Scottish cancer test". The Sunday Times. ISSN 0956-1382. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  13. ^ "George Alagiah diagnosed with bowel cancer". BBC News. 17 April 2014.
  14. ^ "Latest from medics - I'm making encouraging progress". George Alagiah. 28 June 2014. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  15. ^ Quinn, Ben (29 October 2015). "BBC newsreader George Alagiah announces cancer treatment is over". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  16. ^ "BBC newsreader George Alagiah 'clear of cancer' and back to work". BBC News. 9 November 2015. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  17. ^ Sporn, Natasha (15 January 2018). "BBC newsreader George Alagiah to undergo more treatment as cancer returns". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  18. ^ Weaver, Matthew (15 January 2018). "BBC newsreader George Alagiah reveals his cancer has returned". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  19. ^ "Scottish health system quicker to spot cancer, says George Alagiah". The Guardian. Press Association. 25 March 2018. Retrieved 13 May 2018.

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Moira Stuart
Deputy Presenter of BBC News at One
Succeeded by
Darren Jordon
Preceded by
Huw Edwards
Main Presenter of BBC News at Six
New title Main Presenter of GMT