Steve Hewlett: Radio 4 presenter dies at the age of 58

Media captionSteve Hewlett’s death was announced by Radio 4’s Eddie Mair on the PM programme

Broadcaster Steve Hewlett, who movingly shared his experience of coping with cancer on BBC Radio 4, has died at the age of 58.

The Media Show presenter recently revealed he married his partner Rachel earlier this month, after being told he had “weeks, possibly months” to live.

His interviews with Eddie Mair on his cancer journey examined issues such as drug trials and reaction to treatment.

He was diagnosed last March with cancer of the oesophagus.

Hewlett died on Monday morning while listening to Bob Dylan with his family at the Royal Marsden Hospital in west London.

Mair announced his death on Monday’s PM programme on Radio 4.

Media captionMark Damazer, former Radio 4 boss: Steve Hewlett “made good programmes popular, and popular programmes good or great”

In a statement, his family said: “Over the last year, we have been overwhelmed by the support of friends, colleagues and Radio 4 listeners.

“The messages helped Steve enormously, especially over the last few months.”

They also thanked staff at the Royal Marsden, along with Mair and “all the PM listeners”.

‘Trusted voice’

BBC director general Tony Hall said: “Steve Hewlett was an exceptional journalist. 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.”


By BBC media correspondent David Sillito

From Nationwide in the early 80s to presenting the Media Show on Radio Four, Steve Hewlett had a hugely varied career in journalism.

He was in charge of Panorama when it broadcast its controversial interview with Princess Diana – but in recent months the story he’d been telling had been rather more personal.

His interviews with Eddie Mair about his cancer treatment were brisk, factual, sometimes funny – often very moving and, above all, frank.

He was surprised by the response from listeners and readers of his Observer newspaper column. The hardest part, he said, wasn’t facing up to death but telling those closest to him.

He knew what they meant to him – what hurt was realising how much he, in turn, meant to them.

Hewlett had been due to have a second round of immunotherapy when his consultant told him earlier this month that his liver could not cope with any more treatment and that he might not have long to live.

He said the news took a while to dawn on him, but that while he had been afraid of such news, he felt “more comfortable about it” having spoken to family and friends.

His ex-partner and three sons were present as he and his partner Rachel married in a hastily-arranged wedding at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Chelsea.

‘Outstanding journalist’

Hewlett explained in an interview last October why he decided to share his story: “Because 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. 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.”

Image caption

Hewlett was editor of the BBC’s Panorama when Martin Bashir interviewed Diana, Princess of Wales about the breakdown of her marriage

Radio 4 controller Gwyneth Williams said: “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.”

The Media Show will pay tribute to Hewlett on Wednesday.

Hewlett began his television career as a researcher at the BBC, working on programmes such as Nationwide, Watchdog and Panorama.

He also spent time working at Channel 4 before returning to the BBC to work on programmes such as Inside Story in the early 90s.

When editor of Panorama, the Princess Diana interview with Martin Bashir in 1995 was watched by more than 23 million viewers.

Hewlett was also controller of programmes for Carlton TV in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

‘I lived, you will not’

Nick Robinson, Radio 4’s Today presenter who was treated for cancer in 2015, wrote a poem tribute to his friend and colleague on his Facebook page.

“I visited him in hospital a few days ago and wrote this knowing that I would almost certainly never see him again,” he said in the post.

Here is an extract: “You know, I know, anyone who has faced it knows differently. Cancer is not a battle. There is no choice whether to fight let alone whether to win or lose.

“No amount of courage no measure of cowardice can decide the outcome. There is no virtue in survival. Certainly no lack of it in death.

“I lived. You now know that you will not. Luck. Chance. Fate. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

Media captionSteve Hewlett marries as cancer treatment halted

Andrew Neil, a presenter on BBC Two’s Daily Politics, was among those to pay tribute to Hewlett on Twitter, describing him as a “formidable” journalist with “intrinsic fairness and intellect”.

Author Matthew Sweet added that Hewlett was “a consummate journalist reporting his own disappearance from the world.”

“Steve Hewlett had many scoops as Panorama editor”, tweeted Guardian journalist Lisa O’Carroll, the newspaper’s Brexit correspondent, “but his best known was that Princess Diana interview”.

Mair said on Monday’s PM programme that they had decided there was “no voice they would rather hear than Steve himself” before playing several clips from his interviews over the last few months.

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