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Michael Buerk

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Michael Buerk
Buerk in 2012
Michael Duncan Buerk

(1946-02-18) 18 February 1946 (age 78)
EducationUWI Cardiff
Occupation(s)TV presenter, newsreader, journalist
Notable credit(s)BBC News
Britain's Secret Treasures
Heir Hunters
Christine Lilley
(m. 1970)
Children2, including Roland

Michael Duncan Buerk (/bɜːrk/;[1] born 18 February 1946) is a British journalist and newsreader. He presented BBC News from 1973 to 2002 and has been the host of BBC Radio 4's The Moral Maze since 1990.[2] He was also the presenter of BBC One's docudrama 999 from 1992 to 2003. From 2017, Buerk also presented the TV programme Royal Recipes which ran for two series.

Early life[edit]

Buerk was born on 18 February 1946,[3] in Canada. He attended Solihull School,[4] 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.

Buerk's hopes of a career in the Royal Air Force were dashed when he failed an eyesight test at the selection centre. He briefly worked as a hod carrier.[5]

Reporter and newsreader[edit]

Buerk began his career in journalism with the Bromsgrove Messenger, South Wales Echo (he shared a house with Sue Lawley in Cardiff), and the Daily Mail. In 1970, he joined BBC Radio Bristol, where he was the first voice heard on air, before becoming a network reporter for BBC News in 1973.

From 1983 to 1987, Buerk was the BBC's South Africa correspondent during the dying years of apartheid in the country. 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.[6][7]

Buerk's reporting of the Ethiopian famine in October 1984 inspired the Band Aid charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" and the following year's Live Aid concerts.[8] His report is regarded as a watershed moment in crisis reporting that influenced modern coverage.[9]

Buerk became the anchor for the BBC Nine O'Clock News and BBC News at Ten. He presented the first BBC News bulletin of the noughties at 0100 GMT on 1 January 2000.[10]

Buerk announced his semi-retirement from BBC News in 2002, stating he would continue to host other programmes.[8] Despite retirement, he continued to appear on BBC News as an occasional relief presenter until 2004.[11]

Other work[edit]

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

In 2010, Buerk 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 fill-in presenter for Jason Manford on six occasions.

Since July 2012, Buerk has co-presented ITV's Britain's Secret Treasures with Bettany Hughes, looking at fifty of the most remarkable archaeological finds made by the British public. On 6 October 2013, he began hosting Inside the National Trust, a new documentary series.

Buerk has hosted BBC Radio 4's The Moral Maze since 1990 and The Choice since 1998. On 22 October 2014, the BBC apologised for the language used in Buerk's early morning trail for that evening's Moral Maze in which he began: "Nobody comes out of the Ched Evans rape case with any credit – not the victim who'd drunk so much she could barely stand, nor the two footballers who had sex with her in the most sordid of circumstances."[12] Katie Russell, from Rape Crisis England and Wales, accused him of practising "victim-blaming." She commented: "To infer that being drunk is in any way 'morally' comparable to committing the serious and violent crime of rape is deeply offensive."[13][14]

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.[15]

Beginning on 16 November 2014, Buerk took part in the fourteenth series of I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here![16][17] On 3 December 2014, he was the third celebrity to be eliminated in the public vote.

Charity work[edit]

On 28 July 2007, Buerk appeared on a celebrity version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? with Jennie Bond to raise money for NCH, the children's charity. Between them they won £64,000. He is a supporter of the British Red Cross[18] and in October 2008 came out in support of an alternative reality game, Traces of Hope, which the charity developed.[19]

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, and in 2005 he sang Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody".[citation needed]


In August 2005, Buerk asserted in a Radio Times interview that the "shift in the balance of power between the sexes" has gone too far, we need to "admit the problem", and that men are now little more than "sperm donors".[20][21] In particular, Buerk objected to the many women now in senior positions within the BBC. Former newsreader Anna Ford commented: "He's a dear old-fashioned chauvinist of the first order."[22][23]

An article was published in anticipation of Buerk's 45-minute TV-essay, "Michael Buerk on What Are Men For?", which was part of a series on Channel Five, Don't Get Me Started! broadcast on Tuesday 23 August 2005. Guardian television reviewer Sam Wollaston thought Buerk had "been thoroughly, and quite rightly, crucified" in the pre-publicity.[24] At the Hay-on-Wye literary festival earlier in the year, Buerk criticised contemporary newsreaders for being overpaid autocue-reading "lame brains".[25]

At the end of 2012, Buerk 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."[26]

In an article for Radio Times in April 2014 about 'grey power' in television, Buerk referred to presenters who had gone to employment tribunals over claims of age discrimination.[27] Several older female presenters have won cases over wrongful dismissal. Buerk wrote: "If you got the job in the first place mainly because you look nice, I can't see why you should keep it when you don't." Quoting a comment by Anne Robinson ("The viewers don't want to watch ugly") he speculated: "She seemed to say it through gritted teeth, or at least a flawless but strangely taut face – a sign perhaps that she had taken her own advice to stop complaining and work on staying attractive."[27] He did though quote Angela Rippon who spoke positively about older people (including herself) being able to continue their careers in television.[28][29] Responding to Buerk in The Guardian, presenter Miriam O'Reilly, who won her case for unfair dismissal on age grounds in 2011, asserted: "The rules that apply to women in TV don't apply to men. Men can age, women can't. Women have to be attractive, men don't."[30]

In 2016, Buerk was critical of Emma Thompson, Benedict Cumberbatch, and other celebrity liberals. He said in an interview with Ross Kemp, "I hate it when feather-bedded thesps pay flying visits to the desperate to parade their bleeding hearts and trumpet their infantile ideas on what 'must be done'. There's only so much of the Benedict and Emma worldview you can take."[31]

In August 2019 it was reported that Buerk thought that the obese should be allowed to die an early death in order to save the NHS money. In an article in the Radio Times Buerk suggested allowing deaths due to obesity could be a benefit to society.[32][33][34] He added, "See it as a selfless sacrifice in the fight against demographic imbalance, overpopulation and climate change."[32]

Portrayal in media[edit]

Buerk was imitated by Jon Culshaw on Dead Ringers.[citation needed]

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.[35][36][37]

Personal life[edit]

Buerk lives in Guildford, Surrey, with his wife Christine, with whom he has twin sons. One of his sons, Roland, formerly a BBC journalist too, survived the South Asian tsunami on Boxing Day 2004,[38] and was also in Tokyo when the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami struck.[39]

Buerk 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.[40] 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".

In 1991, Buerk was awarded an Honorary Degree (MA) by the University of Bath.[41]

On 18 July 2013, Buerk was awarded an honorary "Doctor of the University" degree at Surrey University's awards ceremony in Guildford Cathedral.




  1. ^ YouTube [dead link]
  2. ^ "BBC - Radio 4 - The Moral Maze - The Moral Maze Team". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 14 February 2024.
  3. ^ "Author: Michael Buerk". Randomhouse.ca. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
  4. ^ Hughes, Ian (11 July 2018). "BBC journalist and Solihull School alumni Michael Buerk to return for student debate". Solihull Observer.
  5. ^ Michael Buerk (2005). The Road Taken. Arrow Books. ISBN 978-0-09-946137-1.
  6. ^ "CV; MICHAEL BUERK Newscaster and presenter of '999'". The Independent. London. 23 June 1997. Archived from the original on 12 May 2022. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  7. ^ "Michael Buerk". BBC News. 3 January 2003. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  8. ^ a b "On This Day - Michael Buerk". BBC News. 3 January 2003. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  9. ^ Franks, Suzanne (22 October 2014). "Ethiopian famine: how landmark BBC report influenced modern coverage". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  10. ^ "The Road Taken, An Autobiography", Michael Buerk, Hutchinson, 2004
  11. ^ "BBC Breakfast titles - 2003". YouTube.
  12. ^ Anita Singh "Ched Evans' victim was drunk and deserves no credit, says BBC's Michael Buerk", Telegraph, 22 October 2014
  13. ^ Ryan Hooper "BBC apologises after presenter Michael Buerk criticised Ched Evans rape victim for 'being drunk'", Independent (Eire), 22 October 2014
  14. ^ "BBC apologises over Michael Buerk’s comments on Ched Evans case", theguardian.com (Press Association), 22 October 2014
  15. ^ "Marmite TV advert draws widespread complaints". bbc.co.uk. 7 August 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  16. ^ "I'm a Celebrity's 10 stars confirmed". Digital Spy. 11 November 2014.
  17. ^ "I'm a Celebrity 2014 full line up revealed: Gemma Collins is final contestant to land Down Under - Mirror Online". Daily Mirror. 11 November 2014.
  18. ^ "Celebrity update 2006". Redcross.org.uk. Retrieved 12 February 2011.
  19. ^ "Michael Buerk – British Red Cross". Redcross.org.uk. Retrieved 12 February 2011.
  20. ^ "Buerk attacks women broadcasters". BBC News. 16 August 2005. Retrieved 12 February 2011.
  21. ^ Richard Alleyne "It's a woman's world, moans Michael Buerk", Daily Telegraph, 16 August 2005
  22. ^ Tom Leonard "Buerk 'is bonkers if he thinks women are taking over the world'", Telegraph, 17 August 2005
  23. ^ Chris Johnston "Montague clashes with Buerk over gender comments", theguardian.com (Media Guardian), 18 August 2005
  24. ^ Sam Wollaston (24 August 2005). "Murder he wrote". Guardian. UK. Retrieved 12 February 2011.
  25. ^ Brian Courtis "In whom we trust", The Age, 3 July 2005
  26. ^ Caroline Davies "Michael Buerk savages BBC's coverage of Queen's diamond jubilee", guardian.co.uk, 30 October 2012
  27. ^ a b Michael Buerk "Why grey power is now a force to be reckoned with on television", Radio Times, 12 April 2014
  28. ^ Hannah Furness "Michael Buerk criticises TV presenters who 'cry ageism'", The Daily Telegraph, 8 April 2014
  29. ^ Hatty Collier "Michael Buerk criticises female presenters who 'cry ageism'", The Guardian, 8 April 2014
  30. ^ Miriam O'Reilly "Michael Buerk's comments show sexism still exists in the TV industry", The Guardian, 8 April 2014
  31. ^ Oli Smith, War reporter Michael Buerk: I'm sick of being lectured to by celebs like Cumberbatch in The Daily Express (London) dated 16 March 2016, accessed 2 March 2020
  32. ^ a b "Michael Buerk suggests NHS could save money by letting obese people die early as a 'selfless sacrifice'". www.msn.com. 6 August 2019. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  33. ^ "Michael Buerk: Let obese people die early to save NHS money". Sky News. 6 August 2019. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  34. ^ Moore, Matthew (6 August 2019). "Let fat people die to save NHS money, says Michael Buerk". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  35. ^ Promotional website Buerk! The Newsical Archived 20 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  36. ^ Entertainment focus Buerk! The Newsical review
  37. ^ "Theatre review: Buerk! The Newsical at Network Theatre". 2 May 2013.
  38. ^ "BBC journalist marries the girlfriend who saved him from tsunami". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 3 June 2023.
  39. ^ "Tsunami hits Japan after massive quake". BBC. 11 March 2011. Retrieved 11 March 2011.
  40. ^ "1984: Extent of Ethiopia famine revealed". BBC News. 23 October 1984. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
  41. ^ "Honorary Graduates 1989 to present". bath.ac.uk. University of Bath. Retrieved 18 February 2012.

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