William Davis: 'Pioneering' ex-BBC journalist dies aged 85

William Davis
Image caption William Davis helped launch The Money Programme, one of BBC Two's best known programmes

Former BBC broadcaster and journalist William Davis has died, after heart failure, aged 85.

Following a successful career in Fleet Street, he joined the BBC and became a presenter on The World At One and also edited satirical magazine Punch.

Born in Germany, he moved at the age of 16 to the UK where he changed his name and became a British citizen.

His daughter, Jacki, described him as a "self-made man" who had a passion to have champagne with everything.

During an appearance on the BBC's Desert Island Discs, he described his childhood growing up in Germany during World War Two as "very grim".

He said the "horrifying experience" of being bombed made him "grateful for the good things that have happened to me".

Davis said that when he first arrived in the UK, it was difficult, with a "great deal of hostility towards anything German" so he pretended to be Austrian.

He worked at various national newspaper titles including the Financial Times, the London Evening Standard as City editor, and at the Guardian as financial editor.

Before becoming one of The World At One's first presenters alongside William Hardcastle, he had helped develop, launch and present BBC Two's The Money Programme.

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Media captionOne of the first presenters recalls his time on The World At One

Speaking in 2016, Davis said the current affairs show sometimes "made the news, not just reported it."

"We knew we had it made when (former prime minister) Harold Wilson phoned up, personally, to complain about something Bill or I had said on the programme," he said.

"That week we all said 'that's it - we've arrived'."

In 1968, the Hanover-born journalist became editor of one of the nation's best-known satirical magazines.

"He was very proud of editing Punch because he thought it was very funny that a little German boy had become the editor of the most quintessentially British institution you could think of," Jacki said.

Offered Thatcher advice

She added: "Of his generation of journalists, he was genuinely pioneering and innovative, he was never content to do it the way it had always been done."

She said her father had been a "great admirer" of Baroness Thatcher and gave the former Conservative prime minister advice from "time to time".

"He would go and see her in Number 10 and give her advice, talking really about how you frame the message, it was really communications advice".

During a lengthy career, Davis also launched in-flight British Airways magazine High Life and became chairman of the British Tourist Authority and English Tourist Board.

He wrote a wide variety of books.

Davis died at his home in Cannes, southern France, on Saturday.

Davis, whose son Simon died at a young age, is survived by his wife Sylvette, daughters Sue and Jacki, and his two grandchildren Lucinda and William.

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