Former RTS Executive Director Michael Bunce dies, aged 79

Former RTS Executive Director Michael Bunce dies, aged 79

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Tuesday, 6th January 2015
"Michael Bunce at the RTS in 2000"

Following the sad death of the former RTS Executive Director, we look back at the remarkable career of Michael Bunce. 

By Steve Clarke

Michael Bunce, who has died of a heart attack aged 79, was the Royal Television Society's first full-time director.

He died unexpectedly on New Year's Eve following the death of his wife, Tina, two weeks earlier from cancer.

Michael joined the RTS as executive director in 1991. His nine years running the RTS were marked by a wide expansion in its activities and the modernisation of the Society's role.

The initiatives undertaken on his watch included the introduction of RTS masterclasses, the sports awards, the design and craft awards, the Hall of Fame, plus an increase in the number of RTS dinners and workshops.

Known for his unflappable and urbane style, Michael was also key in helping to enlist the Prince of Wales as the Society's patron.

His passion and enthusiasm for the RTS and television per se were obvious to all who knew him. At the Society he presided over a rich and varied programme of events and educational initiatives for members and the wider public.
Michael was a popular leader of the RTS and was devoted to his loyal staff.

Prior to his work at the RTS Michael enjoyed a long and distinguished career at the BBC, much of it spent in television current affairs.

Michael was educated at St Paul's School, London and Kingston College. He joined the BBC in 1960 as an engineer following National Service in the RAF. His initial work was in radio as a studio manager and tape editor.

Success came quickly. A programme he worked on, European Enquiry, 6 Nations in Search of Their History, won the Italia Prize for Radio Documentary in 1961.

Michael's first job as producer was on the World Service's People and Politics.

He went on to edit The Money Programme and Nationwide. It was Michael who developed Nationwide into one of the iconic TV shows of the 1970s.

Michael Bunce, right, becomes a fellow of the RTS in 1989, with Chairman Bob Phillis (centre) and George PaganMichael Bunce, right, receives a fellowship to the RTS from Chairman Bob Phillis (centre) in 1989, alongside George Pagan

In 1975 Michael was promoted to Chief Assistant, Television Current Affairs. Three years later he became head of Information Services, Television.

He was appointed the BBC's Controller of Information Services in 1982. In this job he handled the BBC's PR machine with a legendary deftness.

Not even Mrs Thatcher's well-known hostility towards the BBC could knock the sure-footed Michael Bunce off course.

Crisis management appeared to be second nature to Michael. In 1987 it was his job to deal with the sudden and brutal sacking of director general Alasdair Milne by the new BBC chairman Duke Hussey. He took it all in his stride.

His people skills and ability at handling powerful TV executives and politicians held him at good stead when he became executive director of the RTS.

On stepping down from the RTS in 2000 Michael was appointed chairman of the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC). Michael listed his recreations in Who's Who as gardening, visiting fine buildings and fishing.

He was made an OBE for services to broadcasting in 2001. Michael is survived by his son, Charlie, and daughters Miranda and Bella.

A joint funeral for Michael and his wife will be held at 1pm Tuesday 13th January at St. James Church, Park Road, Hampton Hill with the burial immediately afterwards at Teddington Cemetery.

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Following the sad death of the former RTS Executive Director, we look back at the remarkable career of Michael Bunce.