Obituary: Jocelyn Hay CBE, broadcasting campaigner

Born: Swansea. Died: 23 January, 2014, aged 86.

Jocelyn Hay. Picture: Contributed
Jocelyn Hay. Picture: Contributed

The death has been announced of Jocelyn Hay CBE, the founder of the Voice of the Listener and Viewer (VLV) and a strong upholder of the citizen interest in broadcasting in Scotland, the UK and further afield. A bright star has gone out in the broadcasting firmament.

After founding VLV in 1983, Jocelyn went on to chair annual Scottish conferences on broadcasting issues which provided unrivalled opportunities for the public to question and debate with broadcasters, regulators, politicians, journalists and academics.

The cost of admission was always set at a level that was designed to enable everyone and anyone to attend and reflected Jocelyn’s commitment to giving a voice to all in civic society.

Almost singlehandedly, she established an organisation which achieved substantial professional and political credibility by the quality of argument and submissions it made in a plethora of consultations and also the way in which it stood up to anything that threatened the vibrancy or even the existence of public service broadcasting. Jocelyn was an independent voice through and through and acted as a critical friend of the BBC for more than years.

VLV is not a moral crusade, unlike some other groups. Sometimes characterised as the “voice of the Radio 4 listener”, it was and is a much-needed forum in which informed debate takes place without giving ground to the numerous vested interests which dominate the world of media policy.

I well remember attending an EU media conference at which everybody seemed to be there by virtue of large expense accounts. Jocelyn was staying in a bed and breakfast and commented that this symbolised the gap between the media executives, with all their jostling for power and influence, with the voice of the listener and viewer being remarkably small by comparison.

However, no-one who ever heard Jocelyn speak at a conference or on television and radio could be in any doubt about the integrity, strength and clarity of her arguments.

Allied to these was a confidence in communication, together with a wonderful twinkle in her eye which meant that she was able to ask the most direct questions without being anything other than diplomatic.

She always went to the heart of an issue. Not for nothing was she once described as the “Florence Nightingale of Public Service Broadcasting”.

Appointed MBE in 1999, Jocelyn received the Elizabeth R Award from the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association during the same year.

In 2005, she was advanced to CBE although many felt that she should have been made a Dame.In 2007 she received a European Woman of Achievement Award.

Apart from her visits on VLV business, her links with Scotland included a spell living on Fair Isle after the Second World War. Later, she did public relations work for the Girl Guides before devoting the latter half of her life to VLV. Her husband Bill, who predeceased her, was a tower of strength at all stages of their life together.

Jocelyn and I disagreed on the subject of independence for Scotland – she was a strong unionist – but I am sure that I speak for many when I say that, like the BBC, she enriched the lives of many. She and for her family provided generous financial support to VLV without which it would not have survived.

Her wish would have been for those who care about the future of broadcasting to support VLV in any way they can. If the BBC is gain a new charter and to continue to be independent and deliver quality then this will partly be a tribute to her achievements, values and work.

Jocelyn knew that we cannot take the existence of public service broadcasting for granted but that we needed to cherish, support and argue for it.

The BBC never had a better critical friend. For once, “sorely missed” is not a platitude. She is survived by her two daughters and her grandchildren.