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Reith, John Reith, Sir John (1889-1971)

John Reith was the first Director General of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

A tall (6'7"), energetic and imposing son of a Scottish church minister, Reith was an engineer who was recruited to run the BBC in 1922, aged just 33. Radio was still a young industry, and his vision not only shaped the future of the BBC, but of radio broadcasters throughout the world.

Reith was passionate about public service broadcasting. He was a strictly moral man who believed that radio should offer national coverage and high-quality programmes. Furthermore, radio should be publicly funded to avoid commercial dumbing-down, whilst remaining politically independent.

His self-righteous, unshakeable beliefs became out-of-date, and as a result the BBC was slow both to take on television (which he thought would reduce standards) or to relax his high-minded approach to programme-making.

Although both respected and feared, Reith was removed from his job by the BBC's Board of Governors after 16 years, to his eternal bitterness.

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