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David Dimbleby (born 28 October 1938) is a long-standing BBC TV commentator, a presenter of current affairs and political programmes, and more recently, art and architectural history series.


Early life

Dimbleby was born in Surreymarker and educated at two independent schools, the then Glengorse School in Battle, East Sussexmarker, and Charterhouse Schoolmarker in Godalmingmarker, Surreymarker (where he was a contemporary of Adam Raphael). After learning French in Parismarker and Italian in Perugiamarker, he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Christ Church, Oxfordmarker, graduating with a third-class degree. While at Oxford he was also a member of the Bullingdon Club, a socially exclusive student dining society, and edited the student magazine, Isis.

Career

Dimbleby joined the BBC as a news reporter in Bristolmarker in the 1960s and has appeared in news programmes since 1962, early on co-presenting the televised version of the school quiz Top of the Form. He became presenter of Panorama, which had been presented by his father, in 1974 and was involved in a variety of projects throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s, which combined his established role as presenter and interviewer with documentary making. Notable among these were the 1979 The White Tribe of Africa (an award-winning four-part history of South Africa's Afrikaans community and the rise of Apartheid), 1988's An Ocean Apart (an examination of the history of Anglo-American relations) and 1999's Rebellion! (a history of Britain's troubled relations with Zimbabwemarker).

In 1980 he appeared in an episode of comedy sketch show The Goodies as "David Dimbumblum" in which he parodied himself, after being caught on camera during the 1979 election night coverage eating a Mars bar, by carving and eating a roast turkey during a spoof election.

Dimbleby anchored his first Election Night results programme for the BBC in 1979, when he presented alongside Bob McKenzie, David Butler, Sir Robin Day, and Angela Rippon. He has anchored every general election results programme for the BBC since then: in 1983 and 1987 with Sir Robin Day and Peter Snow; in 1992 with Peter Snow and Peter Sissons; and in 1997, 2001 and 2005 with Peter Snow and Jeremy Paxman; He is also seen on budget specials, and was a presenter of the current affairs programme Nationwide, on which he famously addressed Paddy Ashdown as "Panty Ashdown".

Since 1994, he has been chairman of Question Time, the BBC's flagship programme of topical debate. This is the role in which he is now best known. One of the most memorable moments from Question Time was when Dimbleby accidentally referred to Robin Cook as "Robin Cock", to which Cook responded by jokingly referring to Dimbleby as "David Bumblebee".

Dimbleby has also covered outside broadcast events of national importance, such as the State Opening of Parliament, the Trooping the Colour, the Remembrance Day service at the Cenotaphmarker in Whitehallmarker, Londonmarker, the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, royal weddings, and visits of U.S. presidents. He commentated on the funerals of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 2002, and the state visit of U.S. President George W. Bush to Britain the following year. In 1999, he opened BBC 2000 Today, the BBC's coverage of the millennium celebrations, from Greenwich, Englandmarker.

There were reports in 2004 that Dimbleby was shortlisted for the Chairmanship of the BBC. However, the position was eventually awarded to Michael Grade. As early as 1987 he was a contender for the position of Director General of the BBC (losing out to Michael Checkland) and for the chairmanship in the Corporation's tumultuous period following 2001, which went to Gavyn Davies). He has instead remained best known for his role as a frank yet eminently impartial narrator, and occasional moderator, of British politics. He remains outspoken about the Corporation he has served for much of his life, but has stated that he will not apply for the chair or directorship again.

In 2005, he hosted a major BBC One series, A Picture of Britain, celebrating British and Irish paintings, poetry, music, and landscapes. In June 2007 he wrote and presented a follow-up, the BBC series, How We Built Britain, in which he explored the chronological history of British architecture by visiting a region of Britain and its historic buildings each week.

On 12 November 2009, Dimbleby missed his first Question Time in over 15 years, having been hospitalised as a precaution after being briefly knocked out by a rearing bullock at his farm in Sussex.

Honours

He was made an honorary graduate of the University of Essexmarker in 2005, and is the President of the Institute for citizenship.

Family

He is the son of the World War II war correspondent Richard Dimbleby and Dilys (nee Thomas), elder brother of Jonathan Dimbleby, also a current affairs commentator and presenter of both BBC and ITV programmes. David Dimbleby was a director of the Dimbleby Newspaper Group, former publishers of the Richmond and Twickenham Times, acquired by the Newsquest Media Group in 2001 for a reported £12 million.

The younger Dimblebys made their television debuts in the BBC's first holiday travelogue programme Passport in the 1950s, when the entire family would visit locations in Switzerland or Brittany, for example. Several episodes of this series and the UK-based variant No Passport still exist in the BBC and BFI archives. Despite the brothers presenting election coverage on competing channels, when asked in an interview about rival ITV's plans to include a riverboat party with the likes of Kevin Spacey and Richard Branson in their broadcast, David Dimbleby commented "They've got Jonathan Dimbleby, what do they need Kevin Spacey for?"

David has three children by his first wife, Josceline Dimbleby, a cookery writer: Liza, artist; Henry, chef; and Kate, musician. His son, Henry Dimbleby, is co-founder of the healthy fast food chain Leon.

In 2000 he married Belinda Giles, a granddaughter of Herbrand Sackville, 9th Earl De La Warr. They have one son, Fred. He lives in Polegatemarker, East Sussexmarker with a second home in Dartmouth, Devonmarker.

References

  1. GRO Register of Births: MAR 1939 2a 180 SURREY NE - David Dimbleby, mmn = Thomas
  2. Headhunters look outside the box for Dyke successor - Times Online
  3. Honorary Graduates of the University of Essex, UK
  4. Institute for Citizenship - Trustees
  5. Family detective - Telegraph
  6. David Rowan: Interview: David Dimbleby, BBC Question Time (Evening Standard)
  7. thePeerage.com - Person Page 19622
  8. David Dimbleby misses Question Time for first time in 15 years - after being knocked out by wife's bullock - Daily Mail
  9. BBC - Press Office - How We Built Britain: Programme Six Modern South


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