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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 December 2006, 11:28 GMT
Obituary: Lord Hussey of North Bradley
Marmaduke Hussey, who has died aged 83, was appointed chairman of the BBC at one of the most difficult times in its history.

Lord Hussey in 1991, in front of the BBC's Broadcasting House in London
Mr Hussey was given a life peerage in the 1996 Birthday Honours
It was 1986, and the corporation was being subjected to continual criticism from the Conservative government, and some newspapers, over its programmes and an alleged left-wing bias.

Within three months of taking over, he had forced the resignation of the director-general, Alasdair Milne.

Two days after that, the BBC's offices in Glasgow were raided by the Special Branch, when a series was broadcast concerning secret intelligence matters.

This brought a strong protest from Mr Hussey and a warning that the BBC would take appropriate legal action.

War injury

Marmaduke James Hussey went to school at Rugby, was commissioned into the Grenadier Guards, and was severely wounded at Anzio in 1943, losing a leg.

Marmaduke Hussey in 1986
Lord Hussey lost a leg during fighting in Italy in 1943
He was taken prisoner by the Germans, but was eventually repatriated because of his wounds.

He went up to Oxford, and in 1949 joined Associated Newspapers as a trainee. Fifteen years later he was a director.

He joined the Thomson Organisation, and from 1971-80 was chief executive and managing director of Times Newspapers.

He led efforts to secure a national agreement with the unions for new technology in Fleet Street, but failed, and in 1978 the Times and Sunday Times ceased publication for nearly a year.

After that, the newspapers were sold to Rupert Murdoch, which resulted eventually in the move to Wapping. Mr Hussey ceased to be chief executive, but remained on the board.

'Sort out' BBC

His appointment, in October 1986, as the BBC's chairman, followed the death of Stuart Young.

It was a surprise and caused something of a storm at the time; there was talk that he was being put in by the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, to "sort out" the BBC.

Alasdair Milne
Alasdair Milne, whom Lord Hussey sacked as the director-general
Labour's home affairs spokesman Gerald Kaufman called the appointment "provocative". Mr Hussey said he was astonished to have been offered the job, and endured two sleepless nights before accepting.

At the time, the BBC was in a sea of troubles. Just over a year earlier, the Real Lives programme on Northern Ireland had been banned by the governors - it was later broadcast, slightly amended.

Then there was criticism about the way the BBC had publicised The Monocled Mutineer, a drama about the Great War, as a true story.

There were suggestions that a play about the Falklands conflict had been shelved because it showed Mrs Thatcher as a compassionate person.

And then there was a libel case brought by two Conservative MPs accused in a Panorama programme, Maggie's Militant Tendency, of being right-wing extremists. The BBC, after first deciding to fight the case, apologised, and paid damages and costs, said to have been half a million pounds.

High-profile resignation

As soon as Mr Hussey actually took over, he had to deal with a dossier presented by the Conservative Party chairman, Norman Tebbit, complaining about the BBC's television coverage of the American bombing of Libya the previous April.

The BBC denied almost all the charges, and Mr Hussey rejected Mr Tebbit's call for an independent inquiry. He said the governors were responsible for ensuring programme standards.

Lord Hussey in 1999
Lord Hussey was chief executive of Times Newspapers for nine years
The resignation of Alasdair Milne as director-general, at the end of January 1987, came at a time of tension with the Conservatives over a series called Secret Society, which dealt with government policy, official secrets, security and law and order.

Mr Hussey and the vice-chairman, Lord Barnett, saw Mr Milne and, it is generally believed, gave him an ultimatum - resign for "personal reasons" or be sacked.

Mr Milne quit, and Mr Hussey then gave the news to BBC governors and managers having lunch at the BBC's Television Centre.

Two days later - on a Saturday - the Special Branch raided the BBC's headquarters in Glasgow, and took away material for the other five programmes in the Secret Society series.

The Labour Party and the Alliance protested vigorously in Parliament, and the Speaker allowed an emergency debate.

Mr Hussey wrote letters of protest to Home Secretary Douglas Hurd and Scottish Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, saying he had followed the weekend's events with "mounting dismay", adding that the programmes dealt with matters of legitimate public interest.

He also criticised the timing and manner of the Special Branch operation and said the BBC would take whatever legal action might be appropriate. The material was later returned.

Pain

Marmaduke Hussey was a tall (1.95m, or 6ft 5ins), friendly man, who inspired loyalty.

Throughout his life, he continued to suffer pain as a result of his war wounds.

Outside his work, he was chairman of the Royal Marsden Hospital and of the National Advisory Council on the employment of disabled people.

He married Lady Susan Waldegrave, a lady-in-waiting to the Queen and godmother to Prince William. They had a son and a daughter.

In June 1996, Marmaduke Hussey was given a life peerage in the Queen's Birthday Honours. He became Lord Hussey of North Bradley.


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