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Jonathan Dimbleby
Born 31 July 1944 (1944-07-31) (age 65)
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England
Nationality British
Occupation TV Personality

Jonathan Dimbleby, (born 31 July 1944, Aylesbury) is a British presenter of current affairs and political radio and television programmes, a political commentator and a writer.



Dimbleby was educated at the Cranleigh School, a boys' Independent school in Surrey. He read Philosophy at University College London and graduated in 1969.[1] In July 2008 he was made an Honorary Graduate of the University of Exeter.[2]

TV and radio career

Dimbleby began his career on ITV where he was a presenter of This Week and of documentaries for Yorkshire Television.

His 1973 report on the Wollo Famine in Ethiopia played a key role in the undermining of Haile Selassie's regime.[3] In the report, he claimed that 100,000 or 200,000 Ethiopians had already died in the famine, and that twice that figure would perish in the coming months.[4] In 2002, he continued to assert that over 100,000 Ethiopians had perished in the famine,[5] although authoritative reports have since shown the dead to number 40,000 to 80,000.[6][7] Many historians have credited Dimbleby with contributing to the sense of urgency in regards to the famine,[8] and thereby saving many lives. Haile Selassie's government was succeeded by the Marxist-oriented Derg in 1974; in 1984, the BBC returned to Ethiopia to report on a famine[9] in which a million Ethiopians reportedly perished.[10]

He has chaired BBC Radio 4’s programme of topical debate Any Questions? since 1987 and he began presenting its sister phone-in programme Any Answers? the following year.[11] He also presented BBC1's On the Record political programme, until he was succeeded by John Humphrys when he returned to ITV to present the flagship weekly political programme, Jonathan Dimbleby. This series ended on 7 May 2006. Dimbleby has also presented ITN's coverage of general election programmes on ITV three times - 1997, 2001 and 2005.

Dimbleby was cast in 2008 as the judge/host for the first series of a reality show on CBBC called "Election". He was the person who decided who stayed and who left the "election house", similar to the role Alan Sugar played in The Apprentice. However, note that Dimbleby didn't offer the winner of the show a job for him, as Sugar does in The Apprentice.

Writing and other activities

His first book was about his television journalist father, Richard Dimbleby: A Biography, was published in 1975. In 1979 he wrote The Palestinians, an illustrated history of the people and politics of a volatile region of the world.

In 1994 The Prince of Wales: A Biography was published. Widely regarded as reflecting the perspective of Prince Charles concerning the collapse of his marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales, it is often contrasted with the 1992 book Diana Her True Story by tabloid writer Andrew Morton[12]. In fact, Dimbleby's promotional listing refers to the biography as "authorized", and Dimbleby himself wrote, in its preface:

...[T]he moment seemed right to me for a full and, if possible, authoritative portrait of the life and character of the Prince of Wales...However, I had no expectation that he would offer me the unprecedented and unfettered access to the original and entirely untapped sources on which this biography is based. Over the last two years, I have been able to comb through his archives...I have also been free to read his journals, diaries and many thousands of the letters which he has written assiduously since childhood. Not only have I drawn heavily from this wealth of original material but I have been free to quote extensively from it. Nor has the Prince discouraged past and present members of the royal household from speaking to me; likewise, at his behest, his friends and some of his relatives have talked about him openly at length, almost all of them for the first time...In my formal agreement with the Prince of Wales, I undertook 'to take into account any comments made by HRH with respect to factual inaccuracies'...While I have corrected agreed factual errors, I have not been inhibited from writing what I felt to be the truth about him.[13]

The book ends prior to the Wales couple's decision to divorce. Yet it includes a number of personal details not only about their courtship and marriage, but about the upbringing, personality, family relations, activities, finances, charities and lifestyle of the Prince. In the hardcover version's 600 pages, Prince Charles's future wife, Camilla Parker Bowles, is mentioned on 19 pages.

Dimbleby also wrote and presented a television documentary on the Prince of Wales entitled Charles, The Private Man, the Public Role. This included the famous interview in which Charles admitted to having committed adultery after his marriage had "irretrievably broken down", which aired internationally on 29 June 1994.

In a lengthy interview conducted by PBS prior to Diana's death in August 1997, Max Hastings, editor of the Daily Telegraph between 1986 and 1995, discussed the impact of Morton's and Dimbleby's books on subsequent news coverage of the Royal Family:

I suppose the Morton book was a watershed because finally one was asked to come to terms with the fact that a very prominent member of the Royal Family had done something incredibly foolish, incredibly indiscreet and attempted to manipulate the media for her own ends. Now when this was compounded by the Prince of Wales doing exactly the same with Jonathan Dimbleby and also engaging the Murdoch press in this operation, that at that moment in fact--I did write to the Prince of Wales's office and I said 'Hitherto I've always tried very hard to run the newspaper for which I am responsible in a way that will be helpful to the institution of the Monarchy and the Royal Family. But from hereon all bets are off.' Not that one would ever wantonly do the Monarchy or the Royal, the Royal Family any disservice but any notion that one would act against the interest of the paper or keep something out of the paper in order to help the Royal Family has to be off when you've half the Royal Family exploiting the media for their own ends and in this particular case actually being willing to flog anything they've got to flog to the Murdoch press, who in this case were our competition. So, if they're not prepared to help themselves, why on earth should any of the rest of us stick our necks out to help them?

Dimbleby also presented a documentary on the British departure from Hong Kong in 1997 entitled The Last Governor (a reference to Chris Patten). A book appeared the same year. Originally intended to be published by Harper Collins, it was a victim of owner Rupert Murdoch's corporate interests in China, and was published instead by Little, Brown, an imprint of Time Warner.

Dimbleby wanted to be a farmer when he left school and he worked on the Royal Farm, Windsor and trained as a showjumper. For a number of years he ran an organic farm near Bath, and is President of the Soil Association and of Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO). He is also Vice-President (and past President) of the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) and a trustee of the Richard Dimbleby Cancer Fund. He wrote the forewords for "The Organic Directory: Your Guide to Buying Natural Foods" in 1999 and "The Origins of the Organic Movement" in 2001.

Dimbleby is also Chair of Index on Censorship.


Dimbleby is the son of the famous World War II war correspondent Richard Dimbleby, who was later to become presenter of the BBC TV current affairs programme Panorama, and younger brother of David Dimbleby, also a current affairs commentator and presenter of BBC programmes. Jonathan wrote a biography of his father in 1975. He was a director of the Dimbleby Newspaper Group, former publishers of the Richmond and Twickenham Times, acquired by the Newsquest Media Group in 2001.

For thirty-five years, Dimbleby was married to fellow author Bel Mooney. They have two adult children, Kitty, a journalist for the "Femail" section of the Daily Mail, and Daniel, a producer on Jamie Oliver's television show. After interviewing Susan Chilcott for his television programme, Dimbleby pursued a relationship with the operatic soprano who died of breast cancer in September 2003 at the age of 40, coverage of which by the Daily Mail is said to have embittered him. He lived with and cared for Chilcott for the last four months of her life. The following year the Dimblebys announced their separation.[14] Sometime thereafter, Dimbleby began living with a 30 year-old publicist, Jessica Ray and married her in Dartmouth, Devon on 12 March 2007. They have had their first child together, Dimbleby's third child and second daughter, Daisy.[15]

External links


  1. ^ "Spotted: Alumni in the Public Eye". UCL Department of Philosophy. Retrieved 25 August 2009.  
  2. ^ "Wednesday 11 July 2007 afternoon ceremony - Jonathan Dimbleby LLD". Exeter University. Retrieved 27 June 2008.  
  3. ^ De Waal, Alexander. Evil Days: Thirty Years of War and Famine in Ethiopia. 1991, page 58.
  4. ^ Eldridge, John Eric Thomas. Getting the Message: News, Truth and Power. 1993, page 26.
  5. ^ Ethiopia proves there can be life after death | World news | The Observer
  6. ^ De Waal, Alexander. Evil Days: Thirty Years of War and Famine in Ethiopia. 1991, page 58.
  7. ^ [1] Human Rights Watch
  8. ^ Woodward, Peter. The Horn of Africa: Politics and International Relations. 2003, page 175.
  9. ^ De Waal, Alexander. Evil Days: Thirty Years of War and Famine in Ethiopia. 1991, page 177.
  10. ^ Woodward, Peter. The Horn of Africa: Politics and International Relations. 2003, page 179.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Kakutani, M: "Books of the Times; 'He Says, She Says' on a Royal Level", New York Times, November 25, 1994
  13. ^ Dimbleby, Jonathan: "The Prince of Wales: A Biography.", pages xvii-xx. William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York, 1994
  14. ^ Donnelly, Laura."BBC's Jonathan Dimbleby was 'a wreck'" Daily Telegraph, 30 March 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2008.
  15. ^ Donnelly, Laura.Ibid At the time of the interview, Daisy was eight months old. Jessica Ray, his second wife, is now 32 years old.


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