One of the BBC’s longest serving publicity officers, Keith Samuel, has died at the age of 66.
As head of BBC Television Press and Publicity for 13 years until his retirement in 1998, Keith was well known to a generation of BPG members. On his retirement, after promotion to Controller in charge of BBC publicity departments for TV, radio, regions and the new digital channels, the Guild organised a dinner in his honour – an accolade never offered to any other publicity chief.
Keith was born in Brighton and after a spell on his local paper spent 12 years with the former ITV company Southern Television. Among many other production assignments he helped to launch a new ITV drama series called Coronation Street. He joined the BBC as a publicity officer in 1972 and quickly realised that he had found his true vocation. Among the many events in which he was closely involved during his 26 years with the BBC were the Munich Olympic Games, the launch of BBC Daytime, and in 1986 the 50th anniversary of BBC Television.
Keith’s devotion to the BBC and his certainty that it embodied all that was good in public broadcasting were absolute. Sometimes his determination that the Beeb should always be presented in a favourable light led to clashes with journalists looking for a less respectful angle on a story. But he was held in wide esteem and considerable affection by nearly all of those he worked with. His own staff knew that they could count on his unwavering support.
Keith worked closely with a succession of top BBC executives including Sir Bill Cotton, Sir Paul Fox, and Michael Grade. Mr Grade, now chairman of the BBC, said of him: “He was a dear friend as well as a model press officer who kept me out of a lot of trouble when I was working for BBC Television in the 1980s. When I moved to Channel 4
I tried everything, including bribery, to recruit him, but he remained loyal to the institution to which he had devoted most of his working life. He was a lovely, lovely man.”
Keith was a great supporter of the BPG and took pride in claiming that he had probably attended more Awards lunches than most BPG members. When the Guild celebrated its 21st birthday in 1995, Keith organised a reception at Television Centre, hosted by the managing director of BBC Television, Will Wyatt. Outside working hours he was known as a jazz lover and a considerable performer on the trombone. He leaves a wife, Judy, and two grown up children.