Marmaduke Hussey

Former chairman of BBC

Marmaduke Hussey, who spent a decade as chairman of the BBC, positioning it for the digital era, died Dec. 27. He was 83.

He was said to have been brought in by Margaret Thatcher to “sort out” the BBC, serving as chairman from 1986 to 1996.

Known as Dukie and officially a lord, Hussey was installed by the Thatcher government with the apparent intention of tackling the corporation’s perceived left-wing bias.

The crisis of his chairmanship came in January 1987 when he fired Alasdair Milne, then director general, over the debacle surrounding the Zircon affair — a banned television investigation into the government funding of a spy satellite. The program, which Milne barred from being broadcast, resulted in Special Branch officers raiding BBC premises.

Hussey retired from the BBC in 1996 amid reports of a growing rift with then-BBC director general John Birt.

Shortly before his retirement, Hussey was once again part of a controversial decision, albeit unknowingly. The interview given by Princess Diana to the BBC in 1995 — in which she admitted she had been unfaithful and questioned Prince Charles’ suitability to be king — had been kept secret from Hussey. Senior BBC executives had feared he would tell the queen, who employed his wife Susan as a lady-in-waiting, and try to censor the program.

After World War II, where he served with the Grenadier Guards and saw combat in Italy, losing a leg, he joined Associated Newspapers, rising to editor of the Daily Mail.

He later served as chief executive of Times Newspapers from 1971 to 1982 and waged a bitter dispute with print unions about modernizing technology that kept the company’s flagship Times and Sunday Times papers off the streets for nearly a year.

He became chairman of the BBC after the death of Stuart Young.

Hussey is survived by his wife Lady Susan Waldegrave, a lady-in-waiting to the queen and godmother to Prince William. The couple had a son and a daughter.

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