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Baxter, Biddy (1933-)


Main image of Baxter, Biddy (1933-)

After studying at the women-only St Mary's College, Durham University between 1952-55, Baxter began her BBC career in 1955 as a radio trainee studio manager, creating sound effects among sundry technical tasks. She was promoted to producing Schools Junior English programmes and Listen With Mother in 1958.

Baxter won a brief attachment to BBC Children's Television in early 1962. A shortage of staff, brought about by the absence due to illness of Blue Peter producer John Hunter Blair, meant she was thrown in at the deep end making programmes like Playbox (BBC 1955-64). The day she resumed her radio job an advert for a permanent television producer's post appeared. No-one was more surprised than Baxter when she won the job, despite her relative inexperience. One radio colleague branded her a 'traitor' for defecting to television.

Blue Peter was a not terribly successful studio-based magazine that had survived since 1958 probably because it was cheap to make. In poor health, Hunter Blair retired in September 1961, meaning a run of fill-in producers. One, Clive Parkhurst, fired presenter Leila Williams, leaving Chris Trace as sole presenter. Baxter was to have taken over in September 1962, but had to work three months' notice, so Leonard Chase substituted, selecting Valerie Singleton to present with Trace.

Baxter became producer on 5 November 1962, with Edward Barnes her director and 'second'. The pair transformed Blue Peter from middling magazine to national institution - key was involving the viewers in suggesting programme ideas via the Blue Peter badge scheme. Location films, pets and appeals boosted the show's profile.

Restructuring in 1965 saw Baxter promoted to programme editor from 22 April, with Barnes and Rosemary Gill as producers. A succession of presenters grew to both fear and respect Baxter, dreading the clatter of expensive high heels on the staircase from the gallery if anything went badly wrong on the studio floor.

Baxter was awarded an MBE in 1981 and an honorary D. Litt by the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne in 1988. She left Blue Peter on 27 June 1988 and viewers saw her awarded the programme's highest honour of a gold Blue Peter badge, the irony being that she had herself devised the badge scheme.

Baxter has since continued to freelance as a broadcasting consultant. She is a fellow of the Royal Television Society and a council member of David Bellamy's environmental charity the Conservation Foundation.

Alistair McGown

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Thumbnail image of Blue Peter (1958- )Blue Peter (1958- )

Live magazine show offering British children a window onto the world.

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Thumbnail image of Factual Children's TelevisionFactual Children's Television

TV keeps it real for the kids

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