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Sunday, 19 December, 1999, 13:05 GMT
BBC newsreader Dougall dies

Robert Dougall For years Robert Dougall was a familiar face on British TV

Former BBC newsreader Robert Dougall has died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 86, according to his family.

The veteran broadcaster was for years one of the best known faces on British television.

The newsreader as 'a trusted friend' The newsreader as 'a trusted friend'
He was a BBC newsreader in the 1960s and early 1970s and went on to be a presenter on various BBC and ITV programmes.

Broadcaster John Humphrys said: "He was seen to have great authority. People felt intimate with him. He was part of their lives. Everybody knew him and recognised his face."

After leaving school Mr Dougall had worked briefly in the City, before joining the BBC, and made his first broadcast on the old Empire Service when he was 21.

On the day war was declared, and speaking as an anonymous Englishman, he broadcast a last-minute appeal to the German people to stop the invasion of Poland.

He was a reporter in the early years of the war before joining the Royal Navy. He was based in Northern Russia as an interpreter for 18 months.

'Trusted friend'

He returned to the BBC as an announcer and became one of radio's specialist newsreaders.

In 1957 he moved to television.

He has been described as avuncular and a fatherly figure.

In his autobiography Mr Dougall said that, for lonely people especially, the newsreader appearing night after night over the years becomes almost a trusted friend.

When he retired from the BBC in 1973 he began a new career as a writer.

As well as his autobiography, he wrote half a dozen other books - some of them about birds, one of his great interests.

'Friendly and genuine'

He was President of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for five years.

Mike Everett, spokesman for the RSPB, paid tribute to his work.

"He was our president during a time of great expansion when the membership was growing. He came to us as a well-known figure in broadcasting and played an important part in the formation of the modern RSPB," he said.

"He was an immensely friendly and a very helpful and genuine man. He always had time to come in and see us personally even when he was extremely busy.

"He knew us all on Christian name terms and was extremely popular with all the staff."

Mr Dougall also presented the ITV programmes Stars on Sunday and Years Ahead, which was designed to ease people into retirement.

In 1984 Mr Dougall celebrated 50 years in broadcasting.

He was married with a son and a stepdaughter.

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