Charles Hill, Baron Hill of Luton

Charles Hill, Baron Hill of Luton, PC (15 January 1904 – 22 August 1989) was a British physician and medical spokesman, radio speaker, member of parliament, government minister and broadcasting executive.[1]

The Lord Hill of Luton
Chairman of the Board of Governors of the BBC
In office
1 September 1967 – 14 December 1972
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Edward Heath
DeputyRobert Lusty
The Lord Fulton
Preceded byThe Lord Normanbrook
Succeeded bySir Michael Swann
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
13 January 1957 – 9 October 1961
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Preceded byThe Earl of Selkirk
Succeeded byIain Macleod
Member of Parliament
for Luton
In office
23 February 1950 – 13 June 1963
Preceded byWilliam Warbey
Succeeded byWill Howie
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
13 June 1963 – 22 August 1989
Life Peerage
Personal details
Born(1904-01-15)15 January 1904
London, United Kingdom
Died22 August 1989(1989-08-22) (aged 85)
SpouseMarion Spencer Wallace
Alma materTrinity College, Cambridge
OccupationBusinessman, administrator

Early life and career


Charles Hill was born in Islington, London and was educated at St Olave's Grammar School in Southwark, London. He won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he gained a first class degree. He continued his medical studies at the London Hospital gaining MRCS and MRCP in 1927 and later he gained MB, BCh and MD. He became Deputy Medical Officer of Oxford in 1930. He became Assistant Secretary of the British Medical Association from 1932 and Secretary from 1944 to 1950.[2]

During the Second World War, the Ministry of Health had wanted the BBC to infiltrate health messages into ordinary programmes rather than have dedicated programmes from the Ministry of Food, but the BBC warned that this would not be effective and would be viewed by listeners as patronising. Consequently, Hill's role as the "Radio Doctor" became part of the Ministry of Food's programme, Kitchen Front, broadcast every morning from 1942.[3] Because of the then rules about members of the medical profession advertising he could not broadcast under his own name, and so was just 'The Radio Doctor'. His distinctive rich voice helped make an impact.[1]

Hill was still the BMA's Secretary when the National Health Service was introduced in 1948. He negotiated with Aneurin Bevan and ensured that general practitioners did not simply become salaried employees.[2][4]

Political career


Hill stood for Parliament for University of Cambridge in 1945 as an independent. He was successful in 1950, becoming MP for Luton as a Conservative and National Liberal.[5]

He was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food in 1951. He became the Postmaster-General (a non-cabinet ministerial position with responsibilities that included broadcasting) in 1955; during his period in office he publicly berated the BBC for its reporting of the Suez Crisis. In May 1956, Hill attempted to formalise the existing agreement by which discussions or statements about matters before Parliament could not be broadcast in the fortnight preceding any debate (the 'fourteen-day rule'). However, the Suez Crisis rendered this policy unworkable in practice and the government agreed to its suspension at the end of the year. Hill, who had been uneasy about the implications of the rule for freedom of expression, was relieved.[6]

From 1957 to 1961, he was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and from 1961 he was Minister of Housing and Local Government and Welsh Affairs,[7] but he lost his place in the Cabinet in Harold Macmillan's 'Night of the Long Knives' reshuffle in 1962.[4]

Post-political career


He was appointed as the Chairman of the Independent Television Authority in 1963, where he continued his hostile attitude towards the BBC. He was created a life peer on 13 June 1963 as Baron Hill of Luton, of Harpenden in the County of Hertford.[8] In 1967, Hill announced that all the ITV contracts were to be re-advertised, because he was concerned about the large profits being made by the major companies and their lack of regional identity. This resulted in a radical reorganisation of the ITV network.[9]

He succeeded Lord Normanbrook as the Chairman of the BBC Governors (1967–1972), having been appointed by the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, to "sort out" the Corporation.[10] His appointment as BBC chairman surprised the BBC's Governors and several resigned. Sir Robert Lusty, the acting chairman, commented that "it was like inviting Rommel to command the Eighth Army on the eve of Alamein".[11][1]

Harold Wilson encouraged Lord Hill to be active in editorial decisions. Hill had a difficult relationship with the Director-General of the BBC, Hugh Greene, and he eventually forced Greene to resign in 1969. Greene later described Hill as a "vulgarian". He had a quieter relationship with Greene's successor, Charles Curran. He retired from the BBC in 1972 and died in 1989, aged 85.[2]

He married Marion Spencer Wallace, with whom he had two sons and three daughters.[12]

Selected Publications


Hill of Luton Charles Hill. (1936) The Development of Osteopathy.

Hill Charles and H. A Clegg. (1937). What Is Osteopathy? London: J.M. Dent & Sons.

Hill of Luton Charles Hill and Great Britain Ministry of Information. (1943) Wise Eating in Wartime. H.M. Stationery Office

Hill of Luton Charles Hill. (1944) Your Body; How It Works and How to Keep It Working Well. London: Burke.

Hill of Luton Charles Hill. (1950). Bringing Up Your Child. London: Phoenix House.

Hill of Luton Charles Hill. (1952) The Radio Doctor’s Dictionary of Health. Phoenix House.

Hill of Luton Charles Hill. (1964) Both Sides of the Hill [by] Lord Hill of Luton. Heinemann.

Luton, Hill of (1974). Behind the screen: the broadcasting memoirs of Lord Hill of Luton. London: Sidgwick & Jackson. ISBN 978-0-283-98181-4.


  1. ^ a b c "Obituary - Baron Hill of Luton". Times Digital Archive. 23 August 1989. Retrieved 15 March 2024.
  2. ^ a b c "Hill, Charles, Baron Hill of Luton (1904–1989), doctor, politician, and broadcaster". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/40159. Retrieved 14 March 2024. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ "Notes On Books". The British Medical Journal. 2 (4309): 170. 1943. ISSN 0007-1447. JSTOR 20326877.
  4. ^ a b "Obituary". BMJ: British Medical Journal. 299 (6700): 675–677. 9 September 1989. doi:10.1136/bmj.299.6700.675. ISSN 0959-8138. PMC 1837582.
  5. ^ "Doctors In Parliament". The British Medical Journal. 1 (4652): 533. 1950. ISSN 0007-1447. JSTOR 25375319.
  6. ^ Ruff, Daniel (1 January 2021). "Surviving the Committee of Enquiry: A Thriving BBC (1922–1995)". Revue Française de Civilisation Britannique. French Journal of British Studies. XXVI (1). doi:10.4000/rfcb.7171. ISSN 0248-9015.
  7. ^ "New Office For Dr. Charles Hill". The British Medical Journal. 2 (5258): 1009. 1961. ISSN 0007-1447. JSTOR 20355118.
  8. ^ "No. 43027". The London Gazette. 14 June 1963. p. 5077.
  9. ^ "BFI Screenonline: TV in the 1960s". Retrieved 17 March 2024.
  10. ^ "BFI Screenonline: Greene, Sir Hugh (1910-1987) Biography". Retrieved 14 March 2024.
  11. ^ Ashworth, Margaret (5 April 2019). "The Lost BBC: The Kitchen Front". The Conservative Woman. Retrieved 14 March 2024.
  12. ^ "Charles Hill - 'The Radio Doctor' - 1904-1989". Harpenden History. Retrieved 14 March 2024.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Luton
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Postmaster General
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Succeeded by
Media offices
Preceded by Chairman of the Independent Television Authority
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairman of the BBC Board of Governors
Succeeded by