Wadham was a non-stuffy place, and it was conspicuous for its left-wing politics and its social liberalism.
The memoir of one of the most respected figures from the broadcasting industry, Roger describes his journey from Wadham, Oxford to Selwyn College, Cambridge (where he is now Master), via many successful senior roles in news, politics and sport at the BBC.
During his 33 years at the BBC, Roger’s roles went from being editor of Radio 4's Today programme and head of television news to leading the coverage of the London 2012 Olympics, and finally becoming the BBC’s editorial director.
Roger provides a fascinating account of what it's like to be at the top of the BBC: the pressure of handling big broadcasting events, the personalities, the day-to-day politics – and the pain for some individuals.
At the centre of BBC Sport, he was responsible for abolishing Grandstand and then building the BBC’s acclaimed role in the Olympics. His unique perspective takes us from some of Britain's best-known news programmes to the Olympic Stadium and then out of the BBC to a new life in Cambridge, with Downing Street, Wembley and Wimbledon along the way.
Describing his Wadham days Roger writes: “I loved Oxford, while at the same time getting much less out of it than I should have. Wadham was a non-stuffy place, and it was conspicuous for its left-wing politics and its social liberalism. We had a Ho Chi Minh Quad in solidarity with the people of Vietnam. Despite thinking this was a silly gesture, even for 1970s students, I felt at home there; and I adored living in a seventeenth century building even though the plumbing had progressed little since its construction. We had to go down three flights of stairs and across the quadrangle to another staircase if we wanted to use the bathroom, and there was no heating in the bedrooms. In winter I sometimes slept in an unhygienic student fashion, with my pullover on top of sensible Yorkshire pyjamas, and the bed covered by the thickest duvet known to humankind.”
One outstanding moment from his time at Wadham was being part of the 1978 College University Challenge team, although he admits that their performance was not particularly memorable.
In the mid-70s he found that Oxford conformed to some of its stereotypes. “For two years running I had friends who rented a room from a don at New College, and the condition of tenancy was that they had to walk his three dogs each day. So I wandered miles with them, along the banks of the Cherwell and beyond, forming a particularly strong bond with a basset hound called Sally. I devoured what was on offer in the great libraries, wandered contemplatively across Christ Church Meadows on sunlit days, cheered our rowers from the banks of the river (always a position preferred to being in the boat itself) and debated political issues with my friends till dawn.”
Getting Out Alive is published by Biteback
Roger was born in Bradford in 1958 and educated at Bradford Grammar School, followed by Wadham College, Oxford, where he was a William Akroyd Foundation scholar and was awarded a degree in Modern History and Modern Languages.
After university he joined Pennine Radio, Bradford, as a Community Affairs Producer; and his BBC career began in 1980 when he joined BBC Radio Lincolnshire as a reporter.
Roger's first job in network radio was on The Week In Westminster, and he then moved to Today as a producer and to the BBC's New York bureau before becoming Editor of PM in 1987. He was Editor of Radio 4's Today programme from March 1993 until his appointment as Controller of 5 Live at the beginning of 1997.
He was elected Master of Selwyn College in 2013, and is also chairman of the council at Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln.
His interests include football – he is an Arsenal season ticket holder – music and politics. He is a syndic of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. He has written for many national publications, ranging from The Times and The Guardian to The Spectator and The New Statesman.
He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Lincoln in 2011; by the University of Bradford in 2013; and is a fellow of the Radio Academy and the Royal Television Society.