Aubrey Edward Singer 1927 - 2007

Television executive,
Television producer
born in:
Bradford, Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom

Educated at Giggleswick School and then Bradford Grammar School, Aubrey Singer left Bradford for London in 1943. He took a post as a trainee assistant film editor with Gaumont-British Instructional Films, a division of the Rank Organisation, in 1944 and worked abroad.

In 1949 Singer joined the BBC as a television producer, becoming the youngest ever person to work in that position at 22 years old. He first worked in outside broadcasts including sports fixtures and the opening of the Festival of Britain, then feature and documentary programmes. He also co-produced the first episode of ‘Come Dancing’. In 1952 he was seconded to be the first producer in Scotland and eighteen months later was transferred to New York as a television officer, where he stayed until 1956. On his return, Singer worked on a series of science documentaries, ‘Eye on Research’ and ‘The Restless Sphere,’ with the Duke of Edinburgh.

In 1959 he was made Assistant Head of Outside Broadcasts, making documentaries and features on science and the arts. He had major responsibility for all science programmes on the BBC, including ‘Horizon’, ‘Tomorrow’s World’, and the Tuesday documentary. In 1967 he produced ‘Our World,’ the first world-wide satellite programme and became head of the features group, responsible for ‘Civilisation’ and ‘The Ascent of Man’. He also played a major role in programme development for BBC2 before becoming controller on the channel between 1974-1978.

Singer was made Managing Director of BBC Radio in 1978 and oversaw the modernisation of both national and regional programming. A career low point was in 1980 when Singer tried to carry though a management policy of reducing Radio 3 hours and cutting BBC orchestras to save money. This led to the musicians strike, which delayed the start of the Proms for the first time since the Second World War.

Singer was moved to Managing Director of Television in 1982, in addition to being made Deputy Director-General. He started Breakfast Time, the first TV breakfast show in Europe, and had plans for a new soap opera – which appeared after his departure. He was awarded an OBE in 1984.

This is the same year Aubrey was removed from office, encouraged to take early retirement. He was not universally popular within the corporation, partly because of his autocratic ways and partly because there was a perception BBC Television had been performing poorly under him. After leaving the BBC, Singer set up an independent production company, White City Films. As part of his leaving package the BBC agreed to a five-year guaranteed production deal and consultancy contract. He was Managing Director until his retirement in 1996 and was on the council of the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television (now the National Science and Media Museum) for the same period.