Richard Matthew Bannister. Born at Sheffield in 1957. Better known to us as plain old Matthew Bannister. Media executive and broadcaster. He grew up around Millhouses and Ecclesall, attending King Edward VII School, and played as a folk musician around the area, also performing on BBC Radio Sheffield.
His mother, Olga, was a paediatric physiotherapist at the Sheffield Children’s Hospital, while his father was a research chemist for British Steel at Orgreave.
In the early 70s, Bannister signed up for a young people’s acting class at the Crucible Theatre, later taking a course with the National Youth Theatre in London, whilst at the same time studying law at the University of Nottingham.
Instead of a theatre career, Bannister joined BBC Radio Nottingham as a trainee reporter, later presenting Morning Report. He moved to Capital Radio as a journalist, before heading to Radio 1 as presenter of Newsbeat (1983-1985).
Bannister moved back to Capital as Head of News and Talks, became Managing Editor of BBC GLR, and was later appointed as the controversial Controller of Radio 1. He sparked the end of the “Smashie and Nicey” era with the likes of Dave Lee Travis, Simon Bates and Alan Freeman jumping before they were pushed.
He was nicknamed the “fat controller” by his most famous hiring, Chris Evans, with whom he would later have a spectacular falling-out over his refusal to let the DJ work a four-day week.
Rising the executive ladder, he lost out to Greg Dyke for the Director General’s job, before deciding that his future was behind the microphone instead.
Presenting shows on BBC Radio Five Live and World Service, notably Outlook, he is known as the ‘Celebrator of Death’, presenter, since 2006, of Last Word, Radio 4’s obituary programme, and Folk on Foot, his own podcast, where he goes for a walk and chat with a folk musician.
Bannister co-owns Wire Free Productions, the company behind a syndicated evening show for the BBC local radio network – think Mark Forrest and Georgey Spanswick – that ended last year.
His proudest achievement?
“Changing Radio 1 from a middle-aged radio station to a champion of new music, particularly the major role it played in the success of Britpop and the UK dance scene in the 1990s.”