Born: May 15, 1939; Died: November 19, 2013.

Ray Gosling, who has died aged 84, was a journalist, presenter and broadcaster as well as a passionate gay rights activist. He presented well over 100 television documentaries as well as radio programmes, although the end of his career was overshadowed by being convicted for wasting police time over a false claim that he had smothered a lover when he was dying of Aids.

He was born in Chester, the son of a car mechanic and a teacher, and was educated at Northampton Grammar School. He was bright but did not always fit into the academic pattern, often coming bottom of the class. However, he passed his 11 plus and eventually went on to Leicester University where he studied English.

He struggled to fit in again though, and after a year he dropped out and started working as a youth worker in the St Ann's area of Nottingham. With incredible confidence, or arrogance, he published his autobiography, Sum Total, when he was still only 23 years old and this brought him to the attention of television producers at Granada who thought he had potential.

During the 1960s and 1970s, he hosted Granada TV's On Site programme and he quickly developed a reputation as a journalist who looked at subjects others ignored. In particular, he was fascinated by the lives of the working class and the quirky habits and hobbies of ordinary people. He made many TV and radio documentaries about his personal life as well as about sheds, gnomes and windmills and his broadcasting mantra was always: "The little things of life are more important than the big things."

His series for Granada, Gosling's Travels, won praise and confirmed his reputation as a lyrical, eccentric but thoughtful broadcaster, although he always worked as a freelancer and never had a staff job, perhaps because he was notoriously difficult to manage.

He made the claim about his former lover on the documentary series Inside Out, which he made for BBC East Midlands where he had been working as a reporter since 2004. He said: "I killed someone once. He was a young chap, he'd been my lover and he got Aids. I picked up the pillow and smothered him until he was dead."

After the programme was broadcast, Gosling repeated his claim on the BBC Breakfast programme and was arrested on suspicion of murder. When the officers who interviewed him decided that Gosling's confession had been false, he was charged with wasting police time. He was spared prison but was given a 90-day suspended sentence after pleading guilty.

Gosling's colleague Tony Roe said he had been angry when Gosling finally told him that the claim had been false.

"When he told the truth I was at first angry inside, and then sad," said Roe. "He was sitting in front of me, his career over. But that night did see an explanation of sorts. At his friend's funeral he said he was harangued for not ending the suffering sooner. So for the next 30 years he told himself and believed himself that he had. He had wanted to do the right thing and to have been seen to do the right thing."

Gosling's friend, the poet Dave Bishop, said Gosling had been different from other broadcasters. "He was curious about the world and used to go to places that no-one else bothered with," he said. "Ray knew how to talk to people and he liked to mix with the working class, and talk to them. He didn't like programmes like Shameless and EastEnders because he thought they misrepresented the working class."

In later years, Gosling struggled to make ends meet as the commission dried up and he had been living in a one-bedroom flat in Nottingham on benefits before his death. In one of his last documentaries he discussed old age, bankruptcy and moving into sheltered accommodation.

His considerable archive of scripts, notes and files was donated to Nottingham Trent University. For years, the archive had gathered in his house, piling up in teetering paper skyscrapers, symbolic of the chaos that often ruled his life.