Radio 4 broadcaster Steve Hewlett dies aged 58

The host of The Media Show, who openly chronicled his battle with cancer, has lost his fight against the disease

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Steve Hewlett, the journalist and Radio 4 broadcaster, has died aged 58.

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The veteran reporter, who hosted The Media Show on Radio 4 following a distinguished career as a TV executive and producer, passed away on Monday morning.

The BBC said he died while listening to Bob Dylan with his family at the Royal Marsden in London.

A statement from his family said that they were “overwhelmed by the support of friends, colleagues and Radio 4 listeners” who followed Hewlett’s cancer treatment in weekly updates on the PM programme.

It said: “The messages helped Steve enormously, especially over the last few months. The Royal Marsden have been amazing throughout the journey and we are indebted to all the wonderful staff there. We’d like to thank Eddie and all the PM listeners, and if people are still keen to help, then we’d like all donations to go towards the brilliant care the Marsden provide.”

The BBC’s director general, Tony Hall, paid tribute to Hewlett as an “exceptional” journalist. He said: “His analysis of the media industry was always essential listening. Steve was a trusted voice that embodied everything positive in public service journalism. He was hugely popular not just with viewers and listeners, but with BBC staff.

“When I saw him last week, I told him how much I have admired his brave interviews with Eddie Mair about his treatment, which he did with a candour and sense of inquiry that was typically Steve. Our thoughts are with his family and many friends.”

Radio 4 Controller Gwyneth Williams added: “Steve Hewlett will be much missed as an outstanding journalist.

“He was rational and informed, hard-nosed and witty, never taking himself too seriously but unpicking the stories he covered with great seriousness.

“We will certainly miss his weekly presence on Radio 4, and I will miss him personally as a longstanding colleague from the days when we worked together in News. We send our deepest sympathy to his family.”

Wednesday’s edition of The Media Show will be a tribute to Hewlett, the BBC added, reflecting his “remarkable stewardship of the programme defined by his wit, tenacity and his encyclopaedic media expertise”.

Earlier this month, he revealed that doctors were no longer able to treat his cancer which had spread from his oesophagus and stomach to his liver.

He told Eddie Mair on Radio 4’s PM Show, in one of the weekly updates of his condition, that doctors were forced to abandon treatment because his liver was not strong enough to withstand continued attempts to cure him. Shortly after he was given the news, Hewlett married his long term partner Rachel at the Royal Marsden Hospital.

He praised hospital staff for arranging the ceremony at such short notice and described their actions as “Britain at its best”.

Hewlett was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in March 2016 and had openly discussed his condition and treatment in his broadcasts on PM and in a blog for the Guardian which moved many thousands of listeners and readers for their courage and honesty.

In an article for Radio Times in October he explained that he wanted the subject discussed more openly.

“I’m absolutely convinced that the more we talk about cancer – both to our families, friends and loved ones – the better it is for all concerned,” he wrote.

“Above all it’s empowering for them. Don’t get me wrong; telling my boys about my diagnosis was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But dealing with this disease is far easier for me than it is for them. In the end I’m sure telling them everything – good and bad – is right.

“Of course there are always what I call ‘moments’ in the shower, on the bus, even just looking in the mirror, when I just well up and shed a tear or two. In fact, writing this has just brought one on… But at least we’re all facing this together.”

Hewlett became a hugely respected media commentator just over a decade ago after a successful career as a high-ranking broadcasting executive.

He began his TV career more than 30 years ago as a researcher on BBC programmes including Nationwide, Panorama and Watchdog, before moving into the independent television production sector to make current affairs shows for Channel 4.

He went to the BBC in 1987 as a producer on current affairs show Brass Tacks, moving on three years later to make a series of award-winning documentaries for another BBC factual strand, Inside Story, in 1992.

Three years later he became editor of Panorama where his most high-profile success was the Princess Diana interview conducted with Martin Bashir which was watched by more than 23 million viewers.

The interview contained the Princess’s bombshell allegations that there were “three in my marriage” and the revelation that she did love James Hewitt.

Between 1998 and 2004 Steve Hewlett was controller of programmes for ITV company Carlton where he helped restore its fortunes and reputation, which had been severely damaged following revelations that elements of a documentary called The Connection had been faked.

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Hewlett is survived by his wife Rachel, his former partner Karole Lang and their three adult sons, Fred, Bill and Bert.