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Former BBC director general who journalists went on strike to support dies aged 82

By Dominic Ponsford

A former BBC director general who led the corporation through its coverage of the Falklands War, Miners' strike and Northern Ireland Troubles in the early 1980s has died aged 82.

Alasdair Milne was, notes the Telegraph in its obit, the only BBC director general to be sacked. Although many would probably say that Greg Dyke was effectively sacked by the BBC Trust in January 2004 in the wake of the Hutton report.

Milne ran into his biggest crisis when the board of governors tried to ban a documentary about Northern Ireland called Real Lives which included an interview with then IRA leader Martin McGuinness. The anti-Milne faction was led by deputy chairman of governors William Rees-Mogg, who died two weeks' ago aged 84.

BBC and ITV journalists came out on strike in favour of airing the broadcast the BBC obit notes. Milne insisted that the decision was his alone as editor in chief. Real Lives was eventually shown "almost intact", the Telegraph notes, and Mile left his job two years later.

Milne headed into bigger trouble with the Governmeent over  "Maggie's Militant Tendency" about allegedly ultra-right Tory MPs which led to Neil Hamilton and Gerald Howarth sueing for libel. The writs were settled out of court with heavy costs against the BBC in 1986.

BBC Panorama's own webpage cites this as a "low" in the programme's history and says the MPs were awarded £20,000 damages each and £240,000 costs.

Milne faced a motion signed by 10 Tory MPs calling for his resignation. In January 1987 the Board of Governors told him that he should leave immediately and asked him to "resign for personal reasons", leading him to quit.

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The BBC also notes in its obit that allegations aired against a Harley Street slimming specialist on TV programmee That's Life cost the BBC £1m. 

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