Born and educated in London, Richard graduated from Cambridge University and served in the Royal Navy during World War II, returning to London to work as an actor and teacher. He joined the BBC as a radio announcer on the Third Programme and Home Service (1950 – 1959). Richard spoke the first words on the BBC’s first television news bulletin – News and Newsreel – on 5th July 1954, with the following announcement: “Here is an illustrated summary of the news. It will be followed by the latest film of events and happenings at home and abroad.”
Over the next three decades, he presented at some point on all main BBC One and BBC Two news programmes. Notable newsreading dates were:
- 31st October 1955: read the first newsflash at 8pm, announcing that HRH The Princess Margaret would not marry Gp Capt Peter Townsend.
- 20th September 1969: read the first bulletin (lunchtime news) from the new studios in the 6th floor spur at BBC Television Centre.
- 21st September 1970: read the Nine o’Clock News for the first time.
- 5th July 1979: 25th anniversary of BBC TV News. Richard read the Nine o’Clock News.
On the 7th September 1982, it was announced that Baker would leave BBC TV News at the end of the year. ITN embarrassed the BBC by getting a scoop and announcing the news first. He retired from his national newsreader role on 31st December 1982. His last BBC One news bulletin – at 9pm -showed a compilation, featuring clips of Baker reading the news, appearances on The Morecambe and Wise Show and newsroom staff singing Goodbye. His very last news bulletin was on BBC Two at 11.35pm that night, completing 28 years and 5 months on the newsreading team, making him the longest-serving newsreader. He ended the bulletin by pouring a glass of white wine and drinking a toast saying it was the end of the year and the end of an era for him.
Baker presented the BBC London regional programme Town and Around (1963 – 1967) and also narrated the BBC Children’s TV programmes Mary, Mungo and Midge (1969) and Teddy Edward (1973). He was also a panellist on BBC TV’s classical music quiz Face the Music (1967 – 1984). Richard had a strong association with classical music and presented many music programmes for the BBC on television and radio. Many viewers will recall his long-standing role as presenter of the Last Night of the Proms and as the narrator on the annual Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance from the Royal Albert Hall (1988 – 1998).
Richard also presented many BBC radio programmes including: As You Like It (BBC Radio 2, 1970); Start the Week (BBC Radio 4, April 1970 – May 1987); Melodies for You (BBC Radio 2, 1986 – April 2003); Mainly for Pleasure (BBC Radio 3, 1986 – 1992); In Tune (BBC Radio 3, 1992 – 1995); Rush Hour Concert (BBC Radio 3, 1994 – 1995); Sound Stories and Sound Stories Islands (BBC Radio 3, 1998 – 1999); Music in Mind (BBC Radio 4); Richard Baker Compares Notes and Comparing Notes (BBC Radio 4); Baker’s Dozen and Baker’s Half Dozen (BBC Radio 4); Friday Night is Music Night (BBC Radio 2); Richard Baker with Your Hundred Best Tunes (BBC Radio 2, April 2003 – January 2007).
Baker published a biography of Vice-Admiral Sir Gilbert Stephenson KBE, CB, CMG, under whom he had served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. The Terror of Tobermory was published by W. H. Allen in 1972.
Richard and his wife Margaret have two sons: Andrew, a sports columnist at The Daily Telegraph and James, a former broadcaster and now senior executive at Sky Television.
Richard passed away in November 2018 at Sir John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
Video Clips on the Internet
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Richard Baker's final BBC One news bulletin.
PICTURED: Richard Baker. SUPPLIED BY: Paul R. Jackson. COPYRIGHT: BBC.