Austen Kark CBE (20 October 1926 – 10 May 2002) was a managing director of the BBC World Service.   He was one of three former holders of that post, along with Gerard Mansell and John Tusa, to oppose the plans of John Birt to merge the service into the BBC. After Birt became director general of the BBC in 1992, he had planned to end the service's independent status at Bush House in central London, and absorb it within the rest of the corporation.
Kark led a varied career before his tenure with the BBC. He was the son of a London army major who became a publisher. He attended Upper Canada College in Toronto, the Nautical College in Pangbourne, the Royal Naval College, and Magdalen College, Oxford. He became a Royal Navy midshipman in 1944, serving two years with the East Indies fleet, aboard HMS Nelson and HMS London.
In 1948 at Oxford, Kark directed the first production of Jean-Paul Sartre's The Flies . He later joined his family's magazine business, Norman Kark Publications. One of its magazines was the glossy literary magazine Courier. Kark married Margaret Schmahmann in 1949; they had two daughters. The couple divorced in 1954. Kark married novelist Nina Bawden the same year and became stepfather to her two sons. They had one daughter. He became a BBC reporter in 1954 and became head of the South European service at Bush House in 1964. His experiences in South Europe fuelled his interest in the region, particularly Greece; he would later write guidebooks about the country.
Kark moved to the East European and Russian service in 1972. The following year he became Editor of the World Service. He advised the last governor of Rhodesia, Lord Soames, on broadcasting the 1979 election in that country.
He became controller of engineering services in 1974. In 1980, he chaired the Harare government report on radio and television in Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe. In 1981 he began a two-year tenure as Deputy Managing Director of External Broadcasting. He was promoted to Managing Director in 1984, exactly 30 years after he joined the BBC.
Kark was the man-in-the-middle of another great BBC controversy – the launching of the BBC World television service to complement its radio counterpart. The idea was first mooted by Kark's predecessor, Douglas Muggeridge – the nephew of the broadcaster Malcolm Muggeridge. Kark retired in 1986.
Kark was a man of broad interests, especially involving southern Europe and the Commonwealth. He became a trustee of the Commonwealth Journalists Association in 1993. In retirement, he wrote Attic in Greece (1994), and The Forwarding Agent (1999), a spy thriller set in the Middle East that was praised by the crime writer PD James, an old friend. Most of his book was written at his home in Nauplion, a small town in the Peloponnese, where he and his wife Bawden spent much of their time. In London, the couple lived in Islington, in a house backing on to the Regent's Canal. His hobbies included real tennis, travelling and studying mosaics. He was a member of the Oriental Club and MCC, and was appointed CBE in 1987.
Austen Kark died at the age of 75 in the Potters Bar rail crash, in which his wife was severely injured.
The BBC World Service is an international broadcaster owned and operated by the BBC, with funding from the British Government through the Foreign Secretary's office. It is the world's largest external broadcaster in terms of reception area, language selection and audience reach. It broadcasts radio news, speech and discussions in more than 40 languages to many parts of the world on analogue and digital shortwave platforms, internet streaming, podcasting, satellite, DAB, FM and MW relays. In 2015, the World Service reached an average of 210 million people a week. In November 2016, the BBC announced that it would start broadcasting in additional languages including Amharic and Igbo, in its biggest expansion since the 1940s.
John Charles Walsham Reith, 1st Baron Reith,, was a British broadcasting executive who established the tradition of independent public service broadcasting in the United Kingdom. In 1922, he was employed by the BBC as its general manager; in 1923 he became its managing director and in 1927 he was employed as the Director-General of the British Broadcasting Corporation created under a royal charter. His concept of broadcasting as a way of educating the masses marked for a long time the BBC and similar organisations around the world. An engineer by profession, and standing at 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 m) tall, he was a larger-than-life figure who was a pioneer in his field.
Thomas Malcolm Muggeridge was an English journalist and satirist. His father, H. T. Muggeridge, was a socialist politician and one of the early Labour Party Members of Parliament. In his twenties, Muggeridge was attracted to communism and went to live in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, and the experience turned him into an anti-communist.
John Birt, Baron Birt is a British television executive and businessman. He is a former Director-General (1992–2000) of the BBC.
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Sir William Frederick Cotton was a British television producer and executive, and the son of dance band leader Billy Cotton. The TV and radio presenter Fearne Cotton is related to him, as he was her paternal grandfather's cousin.
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Sir Brendan Foster is a British former long-distance runner, athletics commentator and road race organiser, who founded the Great North Run, one of the sport's most high profile half-marathon races. As an athlete, he won the bronze medal in the 10,000 metres at the 1976 Summer Olympics, and the gold medal in the 5,000 metres at the 1974 European Championships and the 10,000 metres at the 1978 Commonwealth Games. He later provided commentary and analysis on athletics, particularly long-distance events, for BBC Sport after his running career ended.
Nina Bawden CBE, FRSL, JP was an English novelist and children's writer. She was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1987 and the Lost Man Booker Prize in 2010. She is one of very few who have both served as a Booker judge and made a Booker shortlist as an author. She was a recipient of the Golden PEN Award.
Edward Bawden, was an English painter, illustrator and graphic artist, known for his prints, book covers, posters, and garden metalwork furniture. Bawden taught at the Royal College of Art, where he had been a student, worked as a commercial artist and served as a war artist in World War II. He was a fine watercolour painter but worked in many different media. He illustrated several books and painted murals in both the 1930s and 1960s. He was admired by Edward Gorey, David Gentleman and other graphic artists, and his work and career is often associated with that of his contemporary Eric Ravilious.
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Howell James CBE is a communications adviser and former Vice-Chairman of Corporate Affairs at Barclays. He has had a long career as a communications adviser in government, broadcasting, and multi-national business. In 2015 he was appointed the CEO of Quiller Consultants, a strategic public affairs firm based in Mayfair. He left the post in August 2017.
Sir John Beresford Clark, KCMG, CBE, FKC was a British broadcaster.