Jana Bennett, former director of BBC Television, dies aged 66

A teacher with a doctorate, Mr. Bennett often moved his family. Jana and her four sisters spent time in Kansas, Minnesota and New Hampshire before the family moved to England and settled in East Sussex when Jana was 13.

She went to St. Anne’s College, University of Oxford, and in 1977 graduated with a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. (An amateur singer, she was recruited to join a band by fellow Oxford student and future prime minister, Tony Blair.) She earned her master’s degree in international relations at the London School of Economics in 1978. The following year , she joined the BBC as a news intern.

Her early journalistic work included current affairs documentaries, including “The Disappeared: Voices from a Secret War”, about the repressive military regime in Argentina in the late 1970s and 1980s. She and John Simpson, a fellow BBC journalist , also wrote a book, “The Disappeared and the Mothers of the Plaza” (1986), which included first-hand testimonies from mothers to find the thousands of children that the Argentine regime had “disappeared”.

While working on the BBC’s Newsnight program, Ms Bennett met Mr Clemmow, editor and director of the BBC. They married in 1995.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by one daughter, Alexandra Bennett-Clemmow; one son, Skomer Bennett-Clemmow; and her sisters Robin King and Kimberly, Candace and Shelley Bennett.

Ms Bennett left the BBC in 1999 and became head of TLC for Discovery in Washington, DC. There she introduced reality shows and interior design programs, some of them based on popular British formats, which not only boosted ratings but also revenue.

She returned to the BBC in 2002, when she was appointed Director of Television.

After her diagnosis in May 2019, Ms Bennett initially told few people about her illness because she wanted to avoid “a prolonged wake”, her longtime friend and BBC colleague Lorraine Heggessey wrote Tuesday in The Guardian.

She was involved in her work on the boards of the British Library and the Headlong Theater Company. She went public of her illness in December 2019, when she joined a non-profit group, OurBrainBankan application that allows people with glioblastoma to consult doctors around the world and promotes research on the disease.

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