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John Reith

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Bureaucrat

The Resume

    (July 20, 1889-June 16, 1971)
    Born in Stonehaven, Scotland, United Kingdom
    General manager (1922-23), managing director (19123-27) and director-general (1927-38) of the BBC
    Chair of the British Overseas Airways Corporation (1938-40)
    Minister of Information (1940), Minister of Transport (1940) and Minister of Works and Planning (1940-42)
    Knighted (1927)
    Named 1st Baron Reith (1940)

Why he might be annoying:

    The Daily Mail described him as ‘looking uncommonly like Boris Karloff at his most sinister.’
    He was ambivalent about the BBC, one day expressing regret at leaving, another day wishing he had never had anything to do with it.
    He called television ‘an abomination.’
    When the British government allowed commercial television to end the BBC’s monopoly (1954), he compared it to the bubonic plague.
    He praised Hitler in his diaries.
    He hated Winston Churchill so much that he rejected an appointment as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland – a post he had long desired – because the offer came from ‘that bloody shit, Churchill.’
    When he was knighted, he was upset that he was not named a Knight of the Garter, complaining, ‘An ordinary knighthood is almost an insult.’
    He underwent electroshock therapy for depression.
    He would sack BBC employees who got divorces while carrying on a long-term affair with his secretary.
    In his 70s, he had a series of affairs with women young enough to be his granddaughters.
    His daughter said, ‘He had a complete lack of empathy with other people’s lives. He just couldn’t understand how they functioned.’
    He constantly lived beyond his means, leaving an estate of just £75.

Why he might not be annoying:

    He was shot through the cheek by a sniper’s bullet (October 7, 1915).
    He spent the rest of World War I in America, supervising armament contracts.
    He maintained the BBC’s independence when the government tried to take it over during a general strike (1926).
    His statement that the BBC’s mission was to ‘inform, educate, entertain’ has remained part of the network’s mission statement to the present.
    He introduced the BBC World Service (1932), which Kofi Annan later called ‘Britain's greatest gift to the world in the 20th century.’
    He personally delivered the opening address for the World Service; because of the many time zones involved, he repeated his speech five times over a 15-hour period.
    His daughter noted he was smart enough to keep his admiration for Hitler private.
    The BBC instituted an annual Reith Lecture in his honor (1948) to advance ‘public understanding and debate about significant issues of contemporary interest.’

Credit: C. Fishel


Featured in the following Annoying Collections:

Year In Review:

    For 2021, as of last week, Out of 1 Votes: 100% Annoying
    In 2021, Out of 15 Votes: 80.0% Annoying
    In 2020, Out of 1 Votes: 100% Annoying
    In 2019, Out of 1 Votes: 0% Annoying
    In 2018, Out of 1 Votes: 100% Annoying
    In 2017, Out of 4 Votes: 75.00% Annoying
    In 2016, Out of 15 Votes: 73.33% Annoying