Lesley Douglas, 1963 -

Lesley Douglas
Photo: BBC


Lesley Douglas is a British radio executive. She was the Controller of BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music from early 2004 until her resignation in October 2008 over the Russell Brand Show prank telephone calls row.   Lesley was born in Newcastle in 1963 and gained a degree in English at Manchester University.


From the BBC, 30 Oct 2008

The controller of Radio 2, Lesley Douglas, has resigned over the lewd calls row involving Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross.

Here is her resignation letter to BBC director general Mark Thomson in full.

Dear Mark,

The last week has been a painful one for the BBC and particularly for BBC Radio 2.

It is with enormous regret that I have decided to resign as controller of BBC Radio 2, BBC 6 Music and of Popular Music.

This is my decision alone.

Over the 23 years of my career at the BBC I have enjoyed a deep love and respect for both the audience and the BBC.

The events of the last two weeks happened on my watch. I believe it is right that I take responsibility for what has happened.

It is a matter of the greatest possible sadness to me that a programme on my network has been the cause of such a controversy.

I would like to take this opportunity to offer my personal apology to Andrew Sachs and his family and to the audience for what has happened.

It has been a huge privilege to have been entrusted with the leadership of the UK's most popular radio station, which is so intensely loved by the audience.

I have also had the tremendous pleasure of launching BBC 6 Music and more recently of leading popular music output across the BBC.

I know I leave BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music in the hands of a dedicated and passionate team of incredibly talented presenters and production staff.

I am enormously proud of what we have achieved together.

Yours ever,

Lesley Douglas

Profile by The Guardian
30 October 2008

The key to Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas is that she never craved a high public profile, despite running Britain's most popular national radio network for five years.

At Radio 2, Douglas, 45, was its puppet master, ultimately responsible for its music strategy, selecting the presenters, including Russell Brand, and appointing backroom producers and executives, including those who nodded through the broadcast of the phone prank played on Andrew Sachs.

One question still unanswered after her resignation letter was whether she was consulted about the infamous broadcast before it aired.

Douglas, married to another BBC staffer and with two school-age children, was forced to break her half-term holiday this week and commute into Broadcasting House from Pinner, outer London, to take charge of her sternest editorial challenge since becoming controller in 2003.

Until this week it has been a career of steady advancement for Douglas, who combined Radio 2 with running BBC 6Radio, the niche digital channel. In 2007 she was promoted and made controller of popular music across the BBC.

Douglas has never put her head above the parapet, sought out or courted the press, and always seems most at ease with other BBC radio people, with producers, and the talent, who, naturally, like her focus on them.

Her most public speeches are directed at industry radio conferences - there are no memorable quotes or thoughts about the medium attributed to her.

What drives her is a devotion to popular music of all kinds, although she is teased about her absolute favourite - Bruce Springsteen.

Douglas was born in Newcastle and studied English at Manchester University, before joining the BBC as a production assistant in 1986. The BBC, in short, was her life. She rose through the ranks of Radio 2 to become head of programmes in 2000.

The key to her success and power was her alliance with the previous controller, Jim Moir. Together they set out to modernise Radio 2, reasoning that as Radio 1 shed its "Smashie and Nicey" middle-of-the-road image to target youth in the 1990s, Radio 2 had to move and scoop up disenfranchised adults aged in their late thirties and above.

Jeremy Vine replaced Jimmy Young, Mark Lamarr was welcomed, though Terry Wogan remained the most loved presenter and Ken Bruce and Sarah Kennedy maintained their prominent time slots.

Another newish face was Chris Evans, to whom Douglas controversially handed the Johnnie Walker drive time slot in 2006.

Jonathan Ross, at the start of a new upward career trajectory, was recruited to gee up Saturday mornings in 1999, though lapses in taste and language have been an issue.

Meanwhile, Russell Brand joined 6 Music in April 2006, and was promoted swiftly to the main network. You could see either as an odd choice or an inspired piece of experimentation.

Douglas knew he was an edgy and challenging star, ensuring most of his programmes were pre-recorded.

Throughout, Radio 2 continued to attract almost 13 million people each week, who listen for an average twelve hours, way ahead of Radio 1 and Radio 4.

The secret of Douglas's success was combining those very different presenters while broadcasting a huge range of music including jazz, soul, choral, folk, big band and gospel, until the fatal combination of two stars egging each other on in a ghastly prank ended her career.

From the BBC website, October 2003

Click to open original pageLesley Douglas has been chosen to succeed Jim Moir as Controller, BBC Radio 2.

She will take over the role of running the UK's most listened to radio station at the beginning of January 2004.

Lesley, aged 40, who was born in Newcastle, will also be responsible for the BBC's new digital music station BBC 6 Music.

She is currently Head of Programmes at Radio 2 and deputy to Controller, Jim Moir CBE, LVO.

Lesley says: "I'm absolutely thrilled.

"Radio 2 is a wonderful station that is passionate about its listeners and music and I'm glad that I've been involved in its evolution over the past few years.

"Taking over the controllership is a huge responsibility but immensely exciting with the bonus of having the chance to develop BBC 6 Music into a mature digital radio station.

"There can't be a better job in broadcasting."

Jenny Abramsky, Director of BBC Radio & Music, says: "Lesley Douglas has played a major role working alongside Jim Moir in making Radio 2 the phenomenal success it is today.

"She is absolutely the right person to take the network forward, cherishing its combination of a broad range of quality music output with a variety of current affairs, comedy, arts and religious programming."

Lesley was appointed Head of Programmes in spring 2000.

She started her career in the BBC as a Production Assistant, first in a research department then moving in 1985 to the David Jacobs show.

In 1988 she became a Producer in the Music Department working on programmes such as the Gloria Hunniford, David Jacobs and Ken Bruce shows as well as Brian Matthew's Round Midnight and The Pleasure's Yours on the BBC World Service.

Lesley returned to Promotions in 1990, this time as a Producer, and was promoted to Editor, Radio 2 Presentation and Planning in 1993.

In May 1997 she became Managing Editor, BBC Radio 2.

Lesley is a Fellow of the Radio Academy and has chaired the Radio Festival Steering Committee on two occasions.




This page was last updated on 30 September 2021

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