George Alagiah

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George Alagiah

Alagiah in 2009
George Maxwell Alagiah

(1955-11-22)22 November 1955
Died24 July 2023(2023-07-24) (aged 67)
London, England
Alma materVan Mildert College, Durham
Notable credits
Frances Robathan
(m. 1984)

George Maxwell Alagiah OBE (/ˌæləˈɡə/; 22 November 1955 – 24 July 2023) was a British newsreader, journalist and television presenter. From 2007 until 2022, he was the presenter of the BBC News at Six, and also the main presenter of GMT on BBC World News from its launch in 2010 until 2014. He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours.

Early life and education[edit]

George Maxwell Alagiah was born in Colombo, Ceylon, on 22 November 1955.[1][2][3] His parents, Donald Alagiah, an engineer, and Therese, were Ceylon Tamils.[4] In 1961, his parents moved to Ghana in West Africa, where he had his primary education at Christ the King International School.[5] He had four sisters.[6] 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.[5] While at Durham, he wrote for and became editor of the student newspaper Palatinate and was a sabbatical officer of Durham Students' Union.[5]

Early career[edit]

In the 1980s, after leaving university, he worked for South Magazine, becoming Africa Editor.[7]

In 2004, Alagiah returned to his grandfather's original home in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami to survey the damage.[5] 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.[5]

Broadcasting career[edit]

Alagiah joined the BBC in 1989 after seven years in print journalism with South Magazine.[8] Before becoming a presenter, he was Developing World correspondent, based in London, and then Southern Africa correspondent in Johannesburg.[5] As one of the BBC's leading foreign correspondents, he reported 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.[5]

In 1999, Alagiah became the deputy anchor of the BBC One O'Clock News and BBC Nine O'Clock News. He was the presenter of BBC Four News from its launch in 2002; the programme was later relaunched as The World and then another edition of World News Today. 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.[7] In December 2007, he became the sole presenter of the Six O'Clock News. In 2006, he began presenting World News Today on BBC World News and BBC Two, which was rebranded GMT on 1 February 2010. He last appeared on the programme in 2014.[9] He was formerly a relief presenter on BBC News at Ten, presenting mainly Monday to Thursday when main presenters Huw Edwards and Fiona Bruce were unavailable.[10] In October 2011, Alagiah presented Mixed Britannia, a three-part documentary series on the history of interracial marriage in the United Kingdom.[11]

A specialist on Africa and the developing world, Alagiah interviewed, among others, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan and President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.[5] 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.[8]

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.[12] He 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.[13] He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours for services to journalism.[12][14]

His appearances at literary festivals included Cheltenham, Keswick, Hay-on-Wye and London, and he spoke at The Royal Geographical Society, the Royal Society of Arts and the Royal Overseas League. He was on the board of the Royal Shakespeare Company.[15]

From 2002 to 2009, Alagiah was a patron of The Fairtrade Foundation,[16] but in July 2009 he was obliged to resign by BBC Management, who claimed professional conflict of interest.[17][18] Complaints were received at the BBC from members of 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.[19][20] He was also actively involved in supporting microfinance as a tool for development, including appearances in support of Opportunity International. He became a patron of Parenting UK in 2000.[16]

In 2010, he received the Outstanding Achievement in Television award at The Asian Awards.[21]

In 2020, his debut novel The Burning Land was shortlisted for a Society of Authors' award.[22] The book is described as a "gripping, pacy thriller about corruption and homicide in South Africa".[23]

Personal life[edit]

Alagiah was married to Frances Robathan, whom he met at Durham University.[24] They had two children, Adam and Matthew,[4] and lived in Stoke Newington, North London.[25]

Illness and death[edit]

In April 2014, it was announced that Alagiah was being treated for colorectal cancer.[26] 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".[27] In late October 2015 he announced on Twitter that the treatment was officially over, and he returned to the BBC on 10 November.[28][29] In January 2018 it emerged that the cancer had returned and he would undergo further treatment.[30][31]

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.[24][32]

In June 2020, Alagiah said that cancer had spread to his lungs, liver and lymph nodes, but was not at a "chronic" or "terminal" stage.[33] He stated in an interview in January 2022 that his cancer would "probably get me in the end", but that he nonetheless felt "very lucky".[34] In October 2022, Alagiah announced that his cancer had spread further; he subsequently took a break from television to undergo a new course of treatment.[35]

Alagiah died on 24 July 2023, at the age of 67. His agent stated that he died peacefully, surrounded by his family and loved ones.[36]


  1. ^ "George Alagiah". TV Newsroom. 16 June 2005. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  2. ^ "George Alagiah". Migration Museum | The story of movement into and out of the UK. 24 November 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  3. ^ People of Today. Debrett's Peerage Limited. 2006. p. 15. ISBN 9781870520324. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h "BBC Press Office: George Alagiah". Retrieved 25 July 2010.
  6. ^ "My family values: George Alagiah | Family". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  7. ^ a b Davies, Hannah J; Waterson, Jim (24 July 2023). "BBC newsreader George Alagiah dies aged 67". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 July 2023.
  8. ^ a b "NewsWatch: George Alagiah". BBC News. 26 June 2006. Retrieved 28 December 2006.
  9. ^ "BBC newsreader George Alagiah has died". Sky News. Retrieved 24 July 2023.
  10. ^ "BBC newsreader George Alagiah dies at age of 67 following battle with cancer". Evening Standard. 24 July 2023. Retrieved 24 July 2023.
  11. ^ Hogan, Phil (9 October 2011). "Rewind TV: Hidden; Mixed Britannia; Boardwalk Empire – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 August 2023.
  12. ^ a b "'One of the best': George Alagiah obituary as long-serving BBC newsreader passes away". The Independent. 24 July 2023. Retrieved 24 July 2023.
  13. ^ "My Life In Media: George Alagiah". The Independent. 7 February 2005. Retrieved 24 July 2023.
  14. ^ "No. 58557". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 2007. p. 8.
  15. ^ "Who's Who – Royal Shakespeare Company". Royal Shakespeare Company. Retrieved 24 July 2023.
  16. ^ a b "A message from George Alagiah". Fairtrade Foundation. Archived from the original on 28 September 2009. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
  17. ^ "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.
  18. ^ "Alagiah asked to quit charity job". BBC News. 4 August 2009. Retrieved 3 May 2010.
  19. ^ Holmwood, Leigh (17 August 2009). "BBC move on George Alagiah's Fairtrade role brings 200 complaints". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 3 May 2010.
  20. ^ BBC Complaints retrieved 25 June 2010
  21. ^ "The Asian Awards Winners List". PR Newswire. 3 November 2010.
  22. ^ "George Alagiah's debut novel up for author's award". BBC News. 14 May 2020. Retrieved 14 May 2020.
  23. ^ "The Burning Land by George Alagiah | Waterstones". Retrieved 14 May 2020.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ "George Alagiah". Hachette UK. 29 January 2019. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  26. ^ "George Alagiah diagnosed with bowel cancer". BBC News. 17 April 2014.
  27. ^ "Latest from medics – I'm making encouraging progress". George Alagiah. 28 June 2014. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  28. ^ Quinn, Ben (29 October 2015). "BBC newsreader George Alagiah announces cancer treatment is over". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  29. ^ "BBC newsreader George Alagiah 'clear of cancer' and back to work". BBC News. 9 November 2015. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  30. ^ Sporn, Natasha (15 January 2018). "BBC newsreader George Alagiah to undergo more treatment as cancer returns". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  31. ^ Weaver, Matthew (15 January 2018). "BBC newsreader George Alagiah reveals his cancer has returned". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  32. ^ "Scottish health system quicker to spot cancer, says George Alagiah". The Guardian. Press Association. 25 March 2018. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  33. ^ "George Alagiah reveals his cancer has spread". BBC News. 11 June 2020.
  34. ^ "George Alagiah: Cancer will probably get me in the end". BBC News. 3 January 2022. Retrieved 3 August 2023.
  35. ^ "George Alagiah takes TV break after cancer spreads". BBC News. 12 October 2022. Retrieved 13 October 2022.
  36. ^ "George Alagiah: BBC journalist and newsreader dies aged 67". BBC News. 24 July 2023. Retrieved 24 July 2023.

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by Deputy Presenter of BBC News at One
Succeeded by
Preceded by Main Presenter of BBC News at Six
Succeeded by
New title Main Presenter of GMT
Succeeded by