Monday, November 06, 2006

Michael Littleton

Michael Littleton, the Head of Features and Current Affairs (HFCA), was at the centre of our little world in the Radio Centre. When Michael died in the Summer of 2002, I was in Canada and couldn't get to the funeral. Like, I'm sure, many others, I felt his death deeply.

I was one of Michael's producers in the 1970s and 1980s, until I left to work in London. I didn’t know it when I worked in RTE, but I would never again in my life have a better boss than Michael. He was a very exceptional man and I respected him for his intelligence, his integrity and his complexity. He was good to me (and indulgent with it) beyond any reasonable bounds. As a young man one takes indulgence for granted – indeed as one’s right. I certainly never thanked him, as I should like now to have done. Probably had I tried, he would have waved my words away and changed the subject. (There was a side to Michael that was very private and very resistant to others’ praise).

What I also loved about Michael was his passion for RTE Radio and his rugged defence of its best qualities. While he represented the ‘apostolic succession’ from the old Radio Eireann, he wasn’t sentimental or boring about it. He had perfect pitch for contemporary Ireland. He kept the radio service relevant and he kept it honest. The RTE that I loved - and that I can still relate to - is Michael Littleton’s RTE. There have been a number of controllers and directors of the radio service. But for some of us Michael was always ‘the real Controller’ and the service rested heavily on his moral authority.

I read about his death on the RTE website, while sitting in a bookshop in Vancouver. I had been thinking of him only an hour before. He was a formative person in my young life and I owe him a debt of gratitude.

Link: Peter Braun on the launch of the International Features Conference (mentions Michael)


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