Michael Alder obituary

My father, Michael Alder, who has died aged 92, was a journalist and BBC television executive who played a key role in the development of English regional broadcasting.

Born in Newcastle to Winnifred (nee Miller), an auctioneer’s daughter, and Thomas Alder, an engineer, Mike was evacuated to Yorkshire during the second world war with his younger brother. Although it was a difficult time, it was also the beginning of a lifelong love of the county.

On returning to Newcastle, the collapse of the family whitesmith business and his father’s death left Mike to support his family after leaving Rutherford grammar school. He was resourceful and resilient, working in a meat factory, and keeping chickens and growing produce to sell.

His natural curiosity saw him appointed junior reporter at the Newcastle Evening Chronicle in 1945, where he not only developed his journalistic skills but also married the editor’s secretary, my mother, Freda Hall, in 1955. They had a happy marriage until her death in 2009.

In 1960 the BBC opened a regional station in Newcastle, and Mike made the move to television. He enjoyed the challenge and excitement of broadcasting live programmes, particularly his time producing the daily news programme Look North. After gaining the respect of his colleagues, Mike was appointed head of regional television development in 1970, based at BBC Pebble Mill in Birmingham.

He proved successful in expanding local broadcasting and in 1977 was promoted to controller of English regional television, overseeing eight stations.

Following his retirement in 1986 he took his skills to the charitable sector, reorganising the finances and structure of the Children in Need appeal, and becoming a board member at Relate.

Mike was a socialist, proud northerner and a freeman of the City of Newcastle. He loved his garden, a place to relax and produce prizewinning flowers and vegetables, and the countryside, especially Wensleydale where he would spend his leisure time fishing and walking his spaniel. Literature, music and the theatre were ever present in his life.

Renowned for his humour and stories, he maintained an unflagging interest in other people, politics and news. He was a lifelong Guardian reader, solving the daily crossword clues right to the end.

He is survived by his daughters, Ann and me, four grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.


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