Broadcasting campaigner

Broadcasting campaigner

Born: July 30, 1927; Died: January 21, 2014

Loading article content

Jocelyn Hay, who has died aged 86, was a redoubtable, respected campaigner on television and radio and the founder of pressure group Voice Of The Listener And Viewer (VLV).

She founded the group in 1983 as a voice for radio listeners in response to a proposal, which horrified her, to make Radio 4 an all-news and current affairs channel, and she remained president of the organisation until her death.

She was born in Swansea but grew up in Australia, before returning to the UK when she was 19 years old. After marrying army officer Bill Hay, she travelled extensively before settling in London where she joined the Girl Guides in their press department. She was head of press and public relations at Girl Guide Commonwealth Headquarters from 1973 until 1978.

She later worked as a freelance writer and broadcaster, working on Woman's Hour on Radio 4 among other programmes but it was when BBC radio managing director Richard Francis announced his plans for the station in the early 1980s that Hay was spurred into action and founded VLV in 1983.

She won her battle, with the plans for Radio 4 being swiftly dropped, and in the years that followed built VLV into one of the leading voices on issues affecting public service broadcasting. She was sometimes compared to Mary Whitehouse, of the National Viewers' and Listeners Association but unlike Whitehouse, whose obsession was smut and horror, Hay was much more concerned with the quality and diversity of Tv and radio. She wanted it to be good.

In 1991, her organisation, which has around 1,500 members, added the words "And Viewer" to its title and continued to successfully campaigned on a number of issues. In the mid-1980s, for instance, it fought plans, contained in the Peacock Inquiry, to allow some commercials on the BBC and privatise Radio 1 and 2.

Alongside her duties with VLV, Hay continued to work as a broad-caster herself and was also a director of the training agency, London Media Workshops, which specialised in writing, directing and producing radio, television and video programmes.

She was appointed an MBE in 1999, and made a CBE in 2005 for her work with VLV. She was awarded the Elizabeth R Award for an Exceptional Contribution to Public Service Broadcasting by the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association in 1999 and in 2007 was presented with the European Women of Achievement Award by the European Union of Women.

She was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and member of the Society of Authors. She went on to become president of the European Alliance of Listeners' & Viewers' Associations for 12 years.

When she spoke about her work, Hay always emphasised the importance of television and radio in people's lives.

"For a huge number of people, their only leisure activity and relaxation is to watch something on the box at home at the end of the day's work," she said.

"VLV views with great concern the relaxation in regulation in many areas, particularly to do with advertising, sponsorship, product placement. Once you break the trust that viewers have in the broadcasters, you'll never get it back again. That trust is a very precious commodity."

BBC Director-General, Tony Hall said: "Jocelyn Hay had a huge impact on broadcasting in this country. She never stopped campaigning for better quality programmes and for all broadcasters to put their audiences first. She always believed it was every broadcaster's duty to make engaging programmes that captured the public's imagination."

Hay had remained active and involved in VLV until recently. She was pre-deceased by her husband and is survived by two daughters.