George was born in Colombo, Ceylon. His parents moved to Ghana in West Africa in 1961. He read politics at Durham University and whilst there wrote for and became editor of the student newspaper Palatinate; he was also a sabbatical officer of Durham Students’ Union. He worked on South Magazine from 1982 until joining the BBC in 1989. He was the developing world correspondent based in London, foreign correspondent (1989 – 1994) and from June 1994, South Africa correspondent, based in Johannesburg. He reported on events ranging from the genocide in Rwanda and the plight of the Marsh Arabs in southern Iraq to the civil wars in Afghanistan, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Somalia.
George was a newsreader on BBC News 24 and then on BBC One from May 1999, deputising on the BBC News at 1 and BBC News at 9. In March 2002, he became the launch presenter on BBC Four News (the first nightly news programme transmitted at 7pm and dedicated solely to foreign news; the programme was broadcast on BBC Four and simulcast on BBC World). It was later relaunched as The World. In January 2003, he became one of the main presenters on the BBC News at 6, alongside Sophie Raworth until October 2005 and Natasha Kaplinsky until October 2007. In October 2007, it was announced that from November 2007, George would be the solo presenter of the BBC News at 6. From 3rd December 2007, George became the sole presenter of the BBC News at 6. From 3rd July 2006, he presented World News Today on BBC World News and BBC Two, which was rebranded GMT on 1st February 2010.
A specialist on Africa and the developing world, George has interviewed many world leaders including Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former secretary-general of the United Nations Kofi Annan and President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. His other documentaries and features include: reports on why affirmative action in America is a lost cause, for the Assignment programme; Saddam Hussein’s genocidal campaign against the Kurds of northern Iraq for BBC Two’s Newsnight; and a report on the last reunion of the veterans of Dunkirk. In 2004, he returned to his grandfather’s original home in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami to survey the damage. The family’s former home had been destroyed, but he was able to recognise an old well where he had played with his sisters, although the well was unsalvageable.
He has appeared at literary festivals including Cheltenham, Keswick, Hay-on-Wye and London, and he has spoken at the Royal Geographical Society, the Royal Society of Arts and at the Royal Overseas League. He is on the board of the Royal Shakespeare Company. From 2002 to 2009, George was a patron of the Fairtrade Foundation from which in July 2009, he was obliged to resign by BBC management who claimed professional conflict of interest. Complaints were received at the BBC from the public who were unhappy that he had been asked to step down. The BBC responded that in keeping with its principles of impartiality, it would be inappropriate for one of its leading journalists to be seen supporting a movement that clearly represents a controversial view of global trade. He has also been actively involved in supporting microfinance as a tool for development, including recent appearances in support of Opportunity International. He has been a patron of Parenting UK since 2000. He was awarded the OBE in the 2008 New Year Honours. In 2010 he was given the Outstanding Achievement in Television award at the Asian Awards.
On 17th April 2014, it was announced that George was being treated for colorectal cancer. A statement from the BBC said: “He is grateful for all the good wishes he has received thus far and is optimistic for a positive outcome.” On 28th June, Alagiah announced on Twitter that he was making “encouraging progress” and on 28th October 2015, he announced that the treatment was officially over and he subsequently returned to newsreading, presenting the BBC News at 6 on 10th November 2015. He ended the bulletin with: “And I just want to say it’s good to be back with you. That’s all from the BBC News at 6, so it’s goodbye from me, and on BBC One we can now join the BBC news teams where you are.” In January 2018, it was announced that the cancer had returned and George would undergo treatment whilst remaining on screen.
George returned to screens on Wednesday 23rd January 2019, presenting the BBC News at 6. Later that night he tweeted: “So good to be back in the newsroom. Overwhelmed by so much support from so many. Thanks to all. I’m still a cancer patient so will take a while to find a work schedule that fits with ongoing treatment. I’m determined to get behind that studio desk as often as I can.”
In March 2018, George presented The Queen: Her Commonwealth Story on BBC One. He has been married to Frances Robathan, who works for the Fairtrade Foundation, for 33 years.
Social Media Presence
Video Clips on the Internet
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PICTURED: George Alagiah. SUPPLIED BY: Paul R. Jackson. COPYRIGHT: BBC.