Joseph Weltman: broadcasting executive and educationalist

Joseph Weltman, a key figure in educational broadcasting both at the BBC and in Independent Television, has died in York at the age of 93.

A distinguished academic career with scholarships to Manchester Grammar School and St John’s College, Cambridge, where he studied Modern Languages, led him into teaching in Scarborough, Liverpool and the City of London.

During the war he served in RAF Intelligence and interrogated prisoners of war in North Africa. He joined the BBC in 1946 where he produced language programmes for Schools Radio. His original French drama productions were widely praised.

Weltman’s intellectual skills were recognised and he was moved to the then Third Programme (now Radio 3) where he produced a series of radio talks and features including a regular weekly programme The Critics, which he persuaded Sir Gerald Barry, the former editor of the News Chronicle, to chair.

For several years he produced the Reith Lectures, responding with enthusiasm to the variety of fields of interest from outstanding speakers. Joe Weltman remained committed to the Reithian ethos of public service broadcasting throughout his working life.

He moved into television where planning for the introduction of schools television programmes was in its initial stages and he was involved in the BBC pilot experiment with a number of schools until in 1960 he visited India as Bursar of the Imperial Relations Trust.

On his return in 1961 he was invited to join Granada Television as Head of its Schools Department in Manchester as it joined the ITV schools network.

Granada now accepted the programmes produced by the London-based Associated Rediffusion and the Midlands contractor Associated Television and expanded its own schools output with an arts series and a current affairs programme aimed at sixth forms.

As more companies were awarded regional contracts, the ITV Schools network grew and, in 1963, Joe Weltman was appointed as the first Education Officer of the Independent Television Authority which operated from its Knightsbridge offices. A joint liaison committee with the BBC was established to avoid overlaps in the planning of schools programmes.

In 1967 Weltman was awarded the OBE for his services to educational broadcasting and he was promoted to Head of Programme Services at the ITA, which involved negotiating with all the ITV contractors on programming for the network.

Frank Harris

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