Geraint Stanley Jones, (1936-2015)

Geraint Stanley Jones, (1936-2015)

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By Geraint Talfan Davies,
Saturday, 14th November 2015
Geraint Stanley Jones
Geraint Stanley Jones

Geraint Stanley Jones, (1936-2015)  (photo: BBC Wales)

Geraint Stanley Jones, who died on the 25th of August this year, was a man of many passions, who left an indelible mark on broadcasting in Wales and beyond in the final quarter of the last century.  While his main contribution was undoubtedly made in Wales as, successively, BBC Wales’s Head of Programmes and Controller and, later, Chief Executive of S4C, he also played an important role at the centre of the BBC and with the EBU.

A son of the manse - like many a Welsh broadcaster in the last century - the values of his home and the political culture of south Wales were at the root of his passion for public service broadcasting.  But apart from a sure moral compass – that carried no hint of undue solemnity - his upbringing also gave him a love of music that was evident in his own talents as a jazz pianist.

He was educated at Bangor University, whose glowering buildings overlooked the BBC's north Wales studios, to which he quickly gravitated to begin as a studio manager.  In the 1960s he became a producer on the Welsh language news magazine, Heddiw - then a nightly opt-out on BBC1 - and worked on features and documentaries before his appointment as Assistant Head of Programmes in 1973, Head of Programmes in 1974, and Controller Wales in 1981.

Geraint Stan – as he was always known to friends and colleagues - would always claim to have been a 'child of the wireless', and it was in 1978-79, during his period as Head of Programmes, that radio broadcasting in Wales broke free from the old Home Service to become two separate national services, Radio Wales and Radio Cymru.  The period also saw the launch of Pobl y Cwm, still the BBC’s longest running soap opera (though now broadcast on S4C), and the biennial BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition that also still survives.

In the mid 1980s he also worked closely with Michael Checkland on a famed efficiency exercise that became known as the ‘black spot’, and soon after, in 1986, was appointed Director of Public Affairs for the BBC, almost immediately being plunged into the turmoil surrounding the removal of the Director General, Alasdair Milne.  When Checkland took over the leadership of the BBC, he chose Geraint to set up and lead a new directorate that supervised broadcasting in the ‘nations and regions’ for the next 20 years.

But Geraint steered it only for its first two years.  Broadcasting in Wales had been intensely political in the 1970s, with civil disobedience campaigns in favour of the creation of a Welsh language television channel.  Owen Edwards, Geraint's predecessor as Controller Wales, was the diplomat who negotiated the BBC's contribution to the eventual solution - the launch of S4C in 1982 - but Geraint's strategic input and support had been crucial.  When Owen Edwards, the channel’s first chief executive, retired in 1989, Geraint was the obvious choice to succeed him.

Over the next five years he brought to the task an outward-looking European vision that took an historical minority language into international markets, for example, by encouraging animation to seek an adult audience with series such as Shakespeare – the Animated Tales.  He was more than well-equipped to take on the chairmanship of the EBU’s programme committee in 1991, a post he held until his retirement in 1995.

He left his mark on Wales in other ways too, as Chair of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and a board member of many other arts organisations.  He was made a CBE in 1993.

To say that Geraint Stan had a sharp eye for principle and a deep seriousness of purpose would be accurate but would also mislead.  He was just as at home with light entertainment as with the high arts, had a popular touch and a mischievous sense of humour.  His emotional intelligence made him a wise diplomat, an astute judge of character and a fierce critic of those who obviously lacked the game gifts - traits that made him great company and the most loyal of friends.

Geraint Talfan Davies was Controller of BBC Wales from 1990 to 2000.

We would just like to add that Geraint Stanley Jones was a member of RTS Wales for over 30 years.

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