Lord Reith

(1889—1971) first director-general of the BBC.

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(b. 20 July 1889, d. 16 June 1971).

Director-general of the BBC 1927–38 Born in Stonehaven, Kincardine, he became a locomotive engineer after leaving school. He was wounded in World War I, and subsequently worked in private industry. Despite his lack of knowledge about broadcasting, in 1922 he became the general manager of the BBC, and in 1927 he was appointed its first director-general. Conscious of the power of broadcasting, he consistently sought to keep the BBC free from political interference, and to extend its national coverage. He also promoted programmes which had a broadly educational content, on subjects such as news, drama, classical music, and literature. In 1936, he inaugurated British television, but this closed during World War II. In January 1940, he became Minister of Information under Neville Chamberlain, and a month later, he was elected to parliament for Southampton. Under Churchill, he was briefly Minister of Transport until he became Minister of Works in October 1940. He did not have an easy relationship with Churchill, and was dismissed in 1942. The subsequent years were a disappointment to a man of his supreme drive and vanity. He chaired the National Film Finance Corporation (1948–51) and the Colonial Development Corporation (1950–9), and was Lord High Commissioner of the Church of Scotland (1967–8).

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945) — British History.

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