Charles Hill, Baron Hill

Charles Hill, Baron Hill of Luton

Charles Hill, Baron Hill of Luton (15 January 190422 August 1989) was an English administrator, doctor and television executive.

Charles Hill was born in Islington, London and was educated at St Olave's Grammar School in Southwark, London. He won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge where he gained a first class degree. He continued his medical studies at the London Hospital gaining MRCS and MRCP in 1927 and later he gained MB, BCh and MD. He became Deputy Medical Officer of Oxford in 1930. He became Assistant Secretary of the British Medical Association from 1932 and Secretary from 1944 to 1950.

During the Second World War, the Ministry of Health had wanted the BBC to infiltrate health messages into ordinary programmes rather than have dedicated programmes from the Ministry of Food, but the BBC warned that this would not be effective and would be viewed by listeners as patronising. Consequently, Hill's role as the "Radio Doctor" became part of the Ministry of Food's programme, "Kitchen Front", every morning from 1942.

Hill was still the BMA's Secretary when the National Health Service was introduced in 1948. He negotiated with Aneurin Bevan and ensured that general practitioners did not simply become salaried employees. He stood for Parliament for Cambridge University in 1945 as an independent. He was successful in 1950, becoming MP for Luton as a Conservative and National Liberal.

He was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food in 1951. He became the Postmaster-General (a non-cabinet ministerial position with responsibilities that included broadcasting) in 1955; during his period in office he publicly berated the BBC for its reporting of the Suez Crisis. In May 1956, Hill attempted to formalise the existing agreement by which discussions or statements about matters before Parliament could not be broadcast in the fortnight preceding any debate (the 'fourteen day rule'). However, the Suez Crisis rendered this policy unworkable in practice and the government agreed to its suspension at the end of the year. Hill, who had been uneasy about the implications of the rule for freedom of expression, was relieved.

From 1957 to 1961 he was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and from 1961 he was to Minister of Housing and Local Government and Welsh Affairs, but he lost his place in the Cabinet in Harold Macmillan's reshuffle in 1962.

He was appointed as the Chairman of the Independent Television Authority in 1963, where he continued his hostile attitude towards the BBC. He was then created a life peer as Baron Hill of Luton, of Harpenden in the County of Hertford. In 1967 Hill announced that the ITV contracts were all to be re-advertised, because he was concerned about the large profits being made by the major companies and their lack of regional identity. This resulted in a radical reorganisation of the ITV network.

He succeeded Lord Normanbrook as the Chairman of the BBC Governors (1967-1972), having been appointed by the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, to "sort out" the Corporation. His appointment as BBC Chairman surprised the BBC's Governors and several resigned. This prompted the comment from Sir Robert Lusty, the acting Chairman, that "it was like inviting Rommel to command the Eighth Army on the eve of Alamein".

Harold Wilson encouraged Lord Hill of Luton to be active in editorial decisions and so he had a difficult relationship with the modernising Director-General of the BBC, Hugh Greene, and Hill eventually forced Greene to resign in 1969. Greene later described him as a "vulgarian". He had a quieter relationship with Greene's successor, Charles Curran. He retired from the BBC in 1972 and died in 1989, aged 85.

He married Marion Spencer Wallace, with whom he had two sons and three daughters.

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