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Peter Donaldson

Peter Donaldson

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Peter Ian Donaldson is a main newsreader
News presenter
A news presenter is a person who presents news during a news program in the format of a television show, on the radio or the Internet.News presenters can work in a radio studio, television studio and from remote broadcasts in the field especially weather...

 on BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...


He was born in Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

, Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and moved to Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

 in 1952 at the time of the overthrow of King Farouk. He was a frequent listener to the BBC World Service
BBC World Service
The BBC World Service is the world's largest international broadcaster, broadcasting in 27 languages to many parts of the world via analogue and digital shortwave, internet streaming and podcasting, satellite, FM and MW relays...

 and the BFBS.

On his return to Britain, Donaldson was educated at Woolverstone Hall School
Woolverstone Hall School
In the early 1950s the London County Council obtained use of Woolverstone Hall near Ipswich, Suffolk, and some of adjoining land for the purpose of establishing a secondary grammar boarding school for London boys...

, a state boarding school in Suffolk
Suffolk is a non-metropolitan county of historic origin in East Anglia, England. It has borders with Norfolk to the north, Cambridgeshire to the west and Essex to the south. The North Sea lies to the east...

, from the age of 14. He left after taking O-levels at 16 and joined Sadler's-Wells London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 in a backstage role. After working with the New Shakespeare Company at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park
Regent's Park
Regent's Park is one of the Royal Parks of London. It is in the north-western part of central London, partly in the City of Westminster and partly in the London Borough of Camden...

 London, and appearing on stage at the Aldwych Theatre
Aldwych Theatre
The Aldwych Theatre is a West End theatre, located on Aldwych in the City of Westminster. The theatre was listed Grade II on 20 July 1971. Its seating capacity is 1,200.-Origins:...

 London with the Royal Shakespeare Company
Royal Shakespeare Company
The Royal Shakespeare Company is a major British theatre company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. The company employs 700 staff and produces around 20 productions a year from its home in Stratford-upon-Avon and plays regularly in London, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and on tour across...

, he went to Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 for a film.

In 1968, his father, who was still living in Cyprus, heard an on-air vacancy for announcers with BFBS and Peter applied. He passed the audition and subsequently worked in Cyprus, Aden
Aden is a seaport city in Yemen, located by the eastern approach to the Red Sea , some 170 kilometres east of Bab-el-Mandeb. Its population is approximately 800,000. Aden's ancient, natural harbour lies in the crater of an extinct volcano which now forms a peninsula, joined to the mainland by a...

, Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

 and Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...


He joined BBC Radio 2
BBC Radio 2
BBC Radio 2 is one of the BBC's national radio stations and the most popular station in the United Kingdom. Much of its daytime playlist-based programming is best described as Adult Contemporary or AOR, although the station is also noted for its specialist broadcasting of other musical genres...

 in 1970 as a presenter and newsreader but switched to Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...

 in 1973. However in the autumn of 1974, before it began broadcasting on 1 October that year, he joined the presentation team of Radio Hallam, the commercial independent local radio station located in Sheffield
Sheffield is a city and metropolitan borough of South Yorkshire, England. Its name derives from the River Sheaf, which runs through the city. Historically a part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, and with some of its southern suburbs annexed from Derbyshire, the city has grown from its largely...

, serving South Yorkshire and the North Midlands. He returned to the BBC after about a month or so and was promoted to Chief Announcer in 1988.

He gave up the post of Chief Announcer and Head of Continuity in 2003 and retired in July 2005. However, he returned to the station on 28 August 2005 on a freelance basis.

Over the years, he has been involved in many disagreements with management. When the then Director-General
Director-General of the BBC
The Director-General of the British Broadcasting Corporation is chief executive and editor-in-chief of the BBC.The position was formerly appointed by the Board of Governors of the BBC and is now appointed by the BBC Trust....

 Greg Dyke
Greg Dyke
Gregory "Greg" Dyke is a British media executive, journalist and broadcaster. Since the 1960s, Dyke has a long career in the UK in print and then broadcast journalism. He is credited with introducing 'tabloid' television to British broadcasting, and reviving the ratings of TV-am...

 announced a plan to "cut the crap" from the BBC and sent plentiful publicity material to all members of staff, Donaldson famously threw his in the bin, before writing to Dyke informing him that he has "Taken your [Dyke's] advice - and cut the crap". One morning in the 1970s he criticised the then-running Radio 4 programme Up to the Hour
Up to the Hour
Up to the Hour was a programme on BBC Radio 4 that ran from 1977 to 1978. There were two editions each weekday morning, each approximately 30 minutes long and finishing at 7am and 8am respectively...

on air, naming himself "Donald Peterson" and very nearly being sacked for it. He has stressed in interview the importance, in his view, of "understanding and being interested in the material in front of you in order to involve the listener". He comments that there are some newsreaders (unspecified; but not within Radio 4) who "clearly have no understanding of what they are reading" and the quality of the broadcast suffers. He has a distinctive form of Received Pronunciation
Received Pronunciation
Received Pronunciation , also called the Queen's English, Oxford English or BBC English, is the accent of Standard English in England, with a relationship to regional accents similar to the relationship in other European languages between their standard varieties and their regional forms...

 "BBC accent" - one of the few left on radio in the 21st century - and his delivery incorporates idiosyncratic pauses in the middle of sentences. In the 1980s, his voice was used on the pre-recorded warning
Four minute warning
The four minute warning was a public alert system conceived by the British Government during the Cold War and operated between 1953 and 1992 when the system was dismantled after the cold war ended...

 that a nuclear attack had been launched on the British Isles during the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, which would have been transmitted on television and radio from a studio in Broadcasting House
Broadcasting House
Broadcasting House is the headquarters and registered office of the BBC in Portland Place and Langham Place, London.The building includes the BBC Radio Theatre from where music and speech programmes are recorded in front of a studio audience...

 in such an eventuality.

More recently, in 2000 he played the resentful and sarcastic butler Theremin, homicidal manservant to the celebrated occult investigator Lord Zimbabwe, in the BBC Radio 4 comedy Ectoplasm
Ectoplasm (radio show)
Ectoplasm was a 2000 BBC Radio 4 comedy series written by and starring Dan Freedman and Nick Romero. Unlike the other radio work of Freedman and Romero, this series features single, coherent stories in each episode; certain motifs do, however, appear in all of the tales, e.g...

, and he also featured in a series of short Radio 4 programmes on the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, reading news reports of the time. He appears to remain at loggerheads with BBC management, and in 2006 it was reported that he would no longer read the news on the Today programme
Today programme
Today is BBC Radio 4's long-running early morning news and current affairs programme, now broadcast from 6.00 am to 9.00 am Monday to Friday, and 7.00 am to 9.00 am on Saturdays. It is also the most popular programme on Radio 4 and one of the BBC's most popular programmes across its radio networks...

, in opposition to the changes made by management to start that shift earlier and include an extra News Briefing programme.

Donaldson lives in Pulborough, West Sussex and his interests include gardening, current affairs, drama, walking and swimming.

External links