Former Radio 4 boss Ian McIntyre dies, aged 82
- 20 April 2014
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
Ian McIntyre, a former controller of both BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio 4, has died aged 82.
Born in Banchory, Scotland, he started his career as a broadcaster, helping establish Radio 4's Analysis programme.
As controller, he made schedule changes that enraged the station's audience. He later got his own back by introducing a listener feedback show called Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells.
Mr McIntyre died on Saturday night, his son Andrew confirmed to the BBC.
His wife, Leik Sommerfelt McIntyre, died in 2012. He leaves two sons and two daughters.
A thanksgiving service will be held in London, with details to be announced at a later date.
A Cambridge languages graduate, Mr McIntyre began his career as a producer in the BBC's Topical Talks Unit, after completing National Service in 1957.
He then spent much of the 1960s working for the Conservative Party in Scotland, and stood unsuccessfully as a Member of Parliament against David Steel.
He returned to the BBC as a freelance, making documentaries around the world, until at the tail end of the 1960s, when his old friend and colleague Tony Whitby - then controller of Radio 4 - asked him to present a new series of current affairs programmes.
The brief was simple: "Make them challenging, make them interesting, and make them amusing if you can". The programme was to be called Analysis.
Mr McIntyre made waves early on when he suggested an episode focussing on an emerging and misunderstood political movement - Feminism.
He also interviewed Prime Ministers Edward Heath and Harold Wilson, as well as the Shah of Iran.
Over the years, he became familiar to listeners, not just for the quality of his reporting, but for his quiet, assured voice.
Critic Gillian Reynolds said: "(It was) a very poetic rising and falling voice but always in control.
"It made me feel very secure like wearing a new pair of shoes".
'Mack the Knife'
In 1976, Mr McIntyre was appointed controller of BBC Radio 4, and set about introducing changes to the station's news output, which he said was over-reliant on current affairs and suffered an "impoverishment of human material".
He hired the station's first female newsreaders and, more controversially, cut the Today programme in two, placing a light magazine show in the middle of its timeslot.
Called Up To The Hour, it prompted a revolt - not least amongst staff at Radio 4.
Announcer Peter Donaldson refused to be associated with it, renaming himself Donald Peterson on air, and expressing surprise that listeners had not switched over to Radio 2.
The show lasted a year before the Today programme was reinstated in full.
Mr McIntyre also had to navigate complaints over Alistair Cooke's long-running Letter From America, which some editors believed was riddled with factual errors.
"There was a steady strand of muttering about Cooke," Mr McIntyre told The Observer in 1996.
"Yet while I was controller, whenever this conversation was pursued further it became obvious that whoever sacked Cooke would find his life became impossible."
Mr McIntyre got a glimpse of the consequences when he moved a repeat edition of Letter From America from its traditional Sunday morning slot to Sunday evening.
"I checked it out with Alistair and he said it was fine," he recalled. "I cleared it too with the managing director of radio.
"But I then got a message to see the director general, who said some governors were unhappy. I then found out that Alistair had spoken to one. He had gone around me."
The contretemps with Cooke was not his last with a Radio 4 stalwart.
In his two-year tenure, Mr McIntyre faced immense pressure to revitalise The Archers, which many felt had become stale.
"The challenge was to provide an element of escapism, yet be close enough to reality to be dramatically convincing," he recalled.
But change would not come easily. Even moving the show from 19:00 to 18:45 in the schedule was met with resistance.
"Listening to The Archers was rather like going to church," Mr McIntyre said.
"Discussing whether it should be changed was like proposing to move Westminster Abbey - one had to accept it as and where it was."
His cuts and changes earned him the nickname "Mack the Knife" but not all of his innovations were unwelcome.
In 1978, he commissioned Fritz Spiegl to write the UK Theme - an orchestral medley of traditional and Irish tunes representing the four home countries of the United Kingdom as well the national maritime tradition.
Used to introduce the Shipping Forecast, it was also the first item broadcast after the World Service handed back to Radio 4 every morning.
The signature tune remained on air until 2006 - when its retirement was debated in Parliament.
Mr McIntyre had a quieter tenure at the head of BBC Radio 3 from 1978 to 1987, during which time he phased out the laborious, analytical introductions that preceded each piece of music in an attempt to make the network more accessible.
He also dropped broadcasts of Open University lectures, describing the move as "most cheerful news".
He left the BBC in 1987, when his position was merged with the post of Controller of Music. Mr McIntyre applied for the job, along with seven others, but was unsuccessful.
In later life, he was associate editor of The Times and wrote biographies of poet Robert Burns, artist Sir Joshua Reynolds and John Reith, the BBC's first director general.
"Ian McIntyre died peacefully at home on 19 April 2014 aged 82, surrounded by his sons and daughters," said a statement from the family.
"From Annie-Mary, his mother, Ian inherited a devotion to family life, which he shared with his wife Leik during a 58-year marriage until her death in 2012.
"Leik and Ian were totally devoted to one another. In her final, very difficult years with Parkinson's, he cared for her night and day, never wavering in his love for her. His devotion inspired others beyond what words can express.
"He nurtured and encouraged his four children in all they did and cherished his eleven grandchildren. He was intensely proud of all of them."