Former Head of Personnel at BBC Scotland

Born: October 9, 1946;

Died: February 25, 2020.

STEVE Ansell, who has died aged 73, was Head of Personnel at BBC Scotland and a member of its Management Board from 1983 till 2005, a period that saw major changes across the broadcasting industry.

In the early 1990s the internal market – Producer Choice – was introduced at the same time that the BBC was adjusting to the requirement to commission at least 25 per cent of its programmes from external, independent, companies. It was a seismic change. The paternalistic job-for-life approach disappeared, with many staff moving from full-time staff conditions to fixed- or short term contracts.

Steve and his team were at the sharp end of managing this transition, its success dependent on the trust between staff, unions and BBC management. The approach throughout was to give staff the support they needed to make the change, and to protect their rights and, if possible, job security.

He was in the perfect job and the BBC in Scotland – and all the people in it –greatly benefitted from his leadership of the personnel team and his contribution to the wider organisation over those 22 years.

Stephen Richard Ansell was born in Northampton in 1946. After school he trained as a psychiatric nurse at the town's St. Crispin’s Hospital, but he never practised. After a period of travelling in Europe he felt the pull of London and found his way into a junior administration post in the BBC.

He was talent-spotted and a successful attachment to personnel set his future path. Working in Design and Scenic Services in TV Centre he gained a reputation as someone who solved problems and, unlike some, “was not a fence-sitter”.

Arriving in Scotland in 1983, he set about re-structuring and expanding the personnel operation, driving change across the organisation. It was anticipated that after a few years he would return to London on an upward trajectory. From time to time he did take on additional responsibilities across the UK, but he was not using Scotland as a stepping-stone. He had no intention of leaving Glasgow; he liked it here, he settled here; and BBC Scotland, and so many individuals, benefited from that commitment.

He worked closely with all the union representatives and the mutual trust meant that changes were introduced speedily and effectively, be it with new working practices, the introduction of crèche facilities, or home-working for those with caring responsibilities.

Steve seemed to know everybody across BBC Scotland and he would wander through Broadcasting House in Glasgow, or any of the other nine centres, dropping in to see people, checking that all was okay, or teasing out a problem with someone who seemed off-form.

He took a real interest in staff development across the whole organisation. He welcomed students on work experience, was a great mentor for younger staff ,and encouraged people with talent to aim higher, spread their wings and try more challenging work. Many senior people in the broadcasting industry tell of the conversation or piece of advice from Steve that changed their career.

Steve was at home in Glasgow’s West End, taking full advantage of the many social opportunities it offered. He liked meeting people, and work and leisure overlapped with many a problem solved over a glass of wine or two.

As a schoolboy he had dreamt of being an actor. He applied to RADA when he was 16 but was told he was too young. His interest in drama and theatre, however, lasted a lifetime. He was a patron of Glasgow’s Tron Theatre, a long-term subscriber to Oran Mor’s A Play, A Pie and a Pint, and a close colleague and friend of BBC Scotland’s drama department, helping them through many tricky challenges.

Steve was also a strong supporter of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. He tried never to miss a concert and it seemed that every musician in the orchestra was his friend.

In 1998 he became one of the founding Board members of the Coach House Trust, which offers training, employability and meaningful activity for adults with mental health issues, recalling his first specialist training. He was committed to the Trust and fully involved in all its activities for 22 years.

In 1994 Steve graduated with an MBA from the University of Glasgow. His dissertation was on ‘The introduction of Producer Choice into BBC Scotland’. When he retired from the BBC in 2006 he took on a part-time role as a tutor in the Department of Management Studies in the Business School. Encouraging these students and sharing his experience gave him great professional satisfaction and he continued with that work till 2017.

Steve was kind, generous and unassuming, with a wonderful self-deprecating sense of humour. He was also fiercely professional and discreet. The crisis averted, the problem solved, are rarely known about, which means that so much of personnel work goes unrecognised and unsung. The tributes now being paid to him by are wider recognition of how he enhanced the lives of so many over the years.

In 1981 Steve married Judith Ferguson and they had a daughter, Kate, and a son, Jonathan, who survive him along with granddaughter Eva. Judith and Steve separated in 1994 and later divorced. For the past 25 years Steve had a strong and loving relationship with Ashe Hussain. Kate, Jonathan and Ashe were with him at the end.