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Lawley, Sue (1946-)


Main image of Lawley, Sue (1946-)

One of the best known of the BBC's current affairs personalities during the 1970s and 1980s, Sue Lawley was a distinguished television figure until she was lured away from journalism into 'popular' television. The muffed transition to showbusiness became a turning point in her career.

Moving up through newspaper journalism and regional TV (BBC Plymouth), she became a presenter for Nationwide (BBC, 1969-83) and had a short spell on Tonight (BBC, 1975-79). For the 24/5/1983 edition of Nationwide, she became almost the only interviewer to take on Mrs. Thatcher over the controversial sinking of the Argentinian ship 'General Belgrano', sticking to her questions with icy politeness. While dealing confidently on screen with anything from serious politicians to garrulous showbiz types, she could also be meticulous and demanding.

She was invited to anchor the BBC's flagship Nine O'Clock News in 1983; later, in May 1986, when some lesbian protesters broke into the Six O'Clock News newsroom while it was live, she unflappably announced, "We have been invaded and hope to return to normal shortly".

When she was brought in to be the guest host on Wogan (BBC, 1982-92) in 1987, she started to present herself not as a serious TV journalist but as a TV star. She was given her own (short lived) chat show, Saturday Matters with Sue Lawley (BBC, 1989).

Now straddling the worlds of current affairs and showbusiness, Lawley departed broadcast television for radio. Following Michael Parkinson's relatively brief tenure, between 1988 and 2006 she took over as presenter of Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, one of the sacred rituals of easy listening British broadcasting, securing the future of the long-running programme.

She has chaired the BBC Reith Lectures since 2002, and is a director of English National Opera. She was awarded the OBE in 2001.

Tise Vahimagi

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