David Jacobs, ‘giant of the BBC’, dies at 87

A young David Jacobs introduced the public to pop music through programmes such as Juke Box Jury. Picture: Getty
A young David Jacobs introduced the public to pop music through programmes such as Juke Box Jury. Picture: Getty
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The veteran broadcaster David Jacobs has died aged 87.

The popular presenter, who hosted peak-time radio and TV programmes such as Juke Box Jury, Pick Of The Pops and What’s My Line? passed away yesterday surrounded by his loved ones.

He stepped down from presenting his weekly Radio 2 programme last month because of ill health.

The presenter died at home “surrounded by his family”, the BBC said in a statement issued last night. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease and had been treated for liver cancer.

For around seven decades, Jacobs’ urbane charm made him a much-loved figure on radio and television. He started at the BBC in 1945, hosting shows including Housewives’ Choice, Juke Box Jury and Any Questions.

Dozens of friends and colleagues paid tribute to the late presenter. BBC director general Tony Hall hailed him as “one of the great broadcast personalities”, and Radio 2 controller Bob Shennan dubbed him “a true giant of the BBC”.

He added that Jacobs hallmarks had been “great taste, authority and warmth”, and said: “I am sure his audience will feel they have lost a friend, as we all do here at Radio 2.”

Born in south London in 1926, Jacobs was educated at Strand School, but he left aged 14 and undertook various jobs, including farm worker and salesman.

His broadcasting career began in the Royal Navy in 1944, where he was made an announcer on wartime radio station Radio SEAC.

Between 1957 and 1969 he hosted Juke Box Jury and in 1964 he became one of the original Top of the Pops presenters. He also, for a time, fronted the Eurovision Song Contest. He also introduced all 53 episodes of radio sci-fi serial, Journey Into Space, as well as playing 22 characters.

Despite his hugely successful career, Jacobs experienced a series of tragic events in his personal life. His only son, Jeremy, was killed in an accident in Israel at the age of 19. Two years later his second wife, Caroline, was killed in a road accident in Spain, carrying their unborn child, only weeks after their marriage.

In 1979 he married Lindsay Stuart-Hutcheson.

In addition to his long-term roles, he made appearances on many popular shows, both on radio and television. These included royal command performances, Blankety Blank, The Frank Sinatra Show, Come Dancing, Pick Of The Pops, Miss World, Housewives’ Choice, What’s My Line? and many more.

In 1984 he won the Sony Gold Award for outstanding contribution to radio over the years, and he was admitted to the Sony Hall of Fame in 1995.

One year later, Jacobs was awarded the CBE for services to broadcasting and for charitable services, including work for cancer charities.

DJ Tony Blackburn last night said on Twitter he had been to his friend’s 85th birthday party “and he did the most brilliant speech which I’ll never forget – he will be sadly missed by all of us”.