David Webster, former high-ranking BBC official who helped Eastern European countries develop independent broadcasting services after the Soviet Union’s collapse, died Wednesday of heart failure in Washington, D.C. He was 72.

Founder and chairman of the Trans Atlantic Dialogue on Broadcasting and the Information Society promoted debate about broadcasting and related issues between Europe and the U.S.; after the Soviet Union collapsed, the dialogue org played a role in formulating regs to guarantee the free flow of information in the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Hungary and Macedonia.

Taunton, England, native attended Oxford’s Ruskin College and joined the BBC in 1953. He became a producer of showcase current affairs program “Panorama” later on and edited the program from 1967-69. In between, he produced the fortnightly interview-based “Encounter” and pioneering investigative program “Enquiry,” both for BBC2.

He moved from “Panorama” to be assistant head of current affairs, and then served as BBC’s U.S. rep from 1971-76. He became its controller of information services in London after that and also acting secretary.

He was named director of public affairs in 1977 (with a seat on the BBC’s board of management) and then resident director to the U.S. in 1981, continuing on the BBC management board until 1985.

He also previously served as an Annenberg senior fellow and director of the Annenberg Intl. Disaster Communications Project, both with the Annenberg Washington Program in Communications Policy Studies of Northwestern U.

Other titles he held included prexy of RadioSat Intl.; trustee of the Independent Journalist Initiatives of Prague, Bratislava and Bucharest; advisory board member of the Intl. Media Centers of Kiev and Minsk; resident associate of the Carnegie Endowment for Intl. Peace; member of the American Advisory Committee of the Citchley Foundation; and fellow of the Intl. Council of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

He is survived by his second wife, journalist-author Elizabeth Drew; two sons from his first marriage; three grandchildren; and a sister.