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Last Updated: Friday, 16 June 2006, 23:10 GMT 00:10 UK
Rantzen's years in the limelight
Esther Rantzen

Esther Rantzen, who has been made a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list, is equally well-known for her charity work and long career in broadcasting.

The 65-year-old has been recognised for her work with the charity Childline, a service to help children who face danger which she founded in 1986.

Rantzen is best remembered for hosting the consumer show That's Life, a BBC programme which ran from 1973 to 1994.

She was also responsible for writing and producing the programme, which became a mainstay of the Sunday night TV schedules.

Good deeds

The show contained an eclectic mix of comical items, from oddly-shaped vegetables to "talking" dogs, and humorous misprints in local newspapers sent in by viewers.

But the programme was also an early hotbed of investigative journalism, taking shoddy firms to task and humiliating petty rule-enforcers in front of the nation.

That's Life was the springboard for serious campaigns on topics such as child abuse, which gave rise to Rantzen's charity, while she works as patron and trustee to numerous other organisations.

Esther Rantzen and the That's Life team (1973)
Esther Rantzen was a consumer champion on That's Life

She began working at the BBC in 1963, creating sound effects for radio dramas, and then became a researcher on programmes including Braden's Week, a forerunner of That's Life which Rantzen made her own.

Another BBC vehicle, Hearts of Gold, which ran for six years, saw the broadcaster commend members of the public for their good deeds.

In 1977 she married fellow broadcaster Desmond Wilcox, an innovative documentary maker on the 1960s series Man Alive.

He went on to follow the story of Peruvian boy David, who suffered from severe facial deformities.


When Wilcox died in 2000, Rantzen said: "I find it difficult to envisage life without him and I know television viewers will find his work equally irreplaceable."

After the demise of That's Life, Rantzen hosted a teatime talk show on BBC Two called Esther, which gained two Bafta nominations.

Esther Rantzen in Strictly Come Dancing
Esther Rantzen's run in Strictly Come Dancing was relatively short

She won Bafta's Richard Dimbleby Award for factual TV in 1988, and was inducted into the Royal Television Society's hall of fame in 1997.

In recent years Rantzen has continued to appear on the small screen, albeit in a different guise.

She took part in the second series of Strictly Come Dancing, but was one of the weaker contenders in the celebrity competition.

Rantzen also took part in the dating programme Would Like To Meet in 2004, but said she was not looking for a replacement for her late husband.

"No-one could ever replace Desmond," she added.

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