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BBC radio icon Peter Donaldson dies after cancer battle - from Strictly to Today tributes pour in

Published 03/11/2015

The death of broadcaster Peter Donaldson, aged 70, was announced on BBC Radio 4 Today by presenter John Humphrys who said his former colleague, who had cancer, was "one of the great radio newsreaders".

Mr Donaldson began his career with BFBS armed forces radio before joining BBC Radio 2 and quickly switching to Radio 4, where he became chief announcer in 1983.

He retired in 2012, signing off with the midnight news on New Year's Eve.

Donaldson was remembered by BBC colleagues as a scourge of the Corporation's management.

BBC director-general Tony Hall  led the tributes describing Donaldson as "the quintessential voice of Radio 4".

"He was an engaging, authoritative and sometimes mischievous broadcaster, who commanded the respect and love of his colleagues and the public alike. He will be hugely missed,"  he said.

Broadcaster Libby Purves said he became a hero to Today staff when he led a successful on-air revolt against unpopular changes to the programme's format in the 1970s.

"One morning, instead of saying 'This is Peter Donaldson' and announcing it, he said 'This is Donald Peterson' and then he ran through everything that was on all the other networks ... and then said, sadly, 'Still, if you're stuck with Radio 4, then I'm afraid it's Up To The Hour'."

"Of course there was an outrage - the controller's special pet project insulted.

"There was a very strong feeling he was going to be sacked for this and a great many of us on the Today programme made it very clear that we were going too, that if anything bad happened to Peter, we were off.

"It was a turnaround moment; it was one of the very few successful rebellions of the people ever to have taken place in the BBC and Peter led it. He was our icon. We loved him."

Strictly Come Dancing contestant and BBC presenter Jeremy Vine also remembered him, writing on Twitter: "Peter Donaldson, who has died, was a brilliant BBC newsreader. Once, feeling irritated with bosses, he announced himself as Donald Peterson."

Cricket presenter Jonathan Agnew tweeted: "Peter Donaldson, the voice of Radio 4 for years has died. Nobody interrupted @bbctms for shipping forecast so mischievously. Loved cricket."

BBC news presenter Jane Hill tweeted: "Ah, the delightful #PeterDonaldson. On air, so professional. Off air, always had time for a chat in the corridor, with a twinkle in the eye."

BBC Radio 4 controller Gwyneth Williams paid tribute to him, saying: "Peter was a magnificent broadcaster. His voice came to stand for Radio 4 and to stand for the high quality of our content.

"When you heard those deep tones on air you could expect the best - you believed what he said - and you felt, somehow, safe. He was enormously kind to me when I was a young producer and we would often share a chat over the headlines late at night in Broadcasting House. We will miss him."

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