Esther Rantzen congratulates BBC on 100th birthday: ‘We’ve never needed you more’

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Esther Rantzen congratulates BBC on 100th birthday: ‘We’ve never needed you more’

The corporation is marking a century since it was founded on October 18 1922, under its original name, the British Broadcasting Company.

Dame Esther Rantzen
Dame Esther Rantzen

Dame Esther Rantzen has congratulated the BBC on reaching 100 years of broadcasting, adding: “You are enormously valuable not only to Britain, but to journalism around the world.”

The corporation is marking a century since it was founded on October 18 1922, under its original name, the British Broadcasting Company.

Dame Esther, 82, presented BBC One’s That’s Life! for 21 years, created and hosted Hearts Of Gold in the late 1980s on the same channel, and later presented her own chat show, Esther, on BBC Two.

Speaking to the PA news agency, the journalist, broadcaster and charity campaigner addressed the BBC, saying: “On your 100th birthday, you used to get a congratulations from the Queen.

“Well, sadly that’s not possible any more, but at least I have the same initials.

“So allow me to congratulate you, Auntie BBC. Like all aunties, you can be a bit annoying. You have your lapses of memory, you sometimes say things that can be quite irritating.

“But taken by and large, you are enormously valuable not only to Britain, but to journalism around the world.

“So stay strong. Don’t get frightened by people who attack you for their own reasons, and we’ve never needed you more.”

The comments came a month after the corporation announced 382 jobs at the BBC World Service would be cut as part of plans to move to a digital-led service.

Dame Esther continued: “Demolition is very easy. You can shoot a statue of Buddha, you can demolish an abbey, and it’s gone. You can demolish the BBC and it will be gone.

“But it takes years, generations, skill, luck, opportunity, the right circumstances, to create a great institution.

“Of course it can be frustrating and of course it can make mistakes. I get cross with the BBC at the moment because I think they hugely underrate older viewers who are their most loyal customers.

“I think it’s not easy to please everyone.”

Dame Esther said her father worked for Lord Reith at the BBC as an electrical engineer at the beginning of the development of television.

She told PA: “My family had one of the very early televisions immediately after television started again after the war in 1946. I can remember Muffin The Mule and Andy Pandy.

“I suppose very early on I wanted to work for the BBC. My father had the greatest respect for Lord Reith and it always seemed to me that telling stories and giving people good information, television seemed to be the best way to do it, really from quite young.”

She became a trainee studio manager at the BBC straight after university, before resigning then rejoining as a clerk in a different department, where she met broadcaster Ned Sherrin.

She told PA: “That was my big break, there was no questions I knew it was my big break. I knew if he gave me a job, that would be the thing that gave me opportunities for the first time.

“The BBC gave me unique opportunities, absolutely unique opportunities.”

Dame Esther said the BBC’s coverage of the Queen’s funeral last month was the “perfect example” of the part the broadcaster plays “at its best in Britain’s life”.

Speaking about the corporation’s survival in an age of streaming, she added: “The BBC needs to offer good information, good entertainment in a form that viewers and listeners really enjoy, and they have to stay in touch with viewers and listeners of every age, not only in this country, but around the world.

“The BBC also has a very important role to play in providing news, as against fake news, to people who really are vulnerable and need it.

“Why do we feel as we do about Ukraine? It’s because these extraordinarily brave reporters have gone out there and shown us exactly what is happening. We trust the BBC to tell us the truth.

“The fact is that the BBC has this – I know because I was trained by them – absolute dedication to public service commitment.”

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