We meet BBC Broadcast Journalist Peter White
BBC Broadcaster Peter White was born in Winchester and is well known for presenting shows on Radio Solent and BBC Radio 4. Blind since birth, he’s become the first totally blind person to produce TV news reports and has been the BBC’s Disability Affairs Correspondent for many years.
What was it like growing up in Hampshire?
I loved Hampshire. I went away to boarding schools because I was blind and there used to be a lot of competition about who came from the best county. I was fiercely proud of Hampshire – we had far better football teams, the Farnborough Air Show (which I didn’t know anything about but it sounded a rather grand thing to have!) and the New Forest. I’m a very sports-orientated person so I loved Hampshire cricket and Southampton Football Club.
When did you decide you wanted to become a radio presenter and reporter?
I was absolutely obsessed with radio from the age of about 3 or 4 and I would listen to anything. The idea of voices coming out of this box fascinated me so I suppose those roots were there.
How did you break into the broadcasting world?
I went to University but didn’t like it. I was doing law which is one of the things blind people were supposed to be good at and would be able to do. When I heard that local radio was starting up and one of them was going to be in Southampton, I hitchhiked my way down and talked my way in. They didn’t really know what to do with me but I realised that I just had to hang in there and not go away until they gave me a job!
You did a lot of presenting on Radio Solent and you then went into TV?
Originally I did a programme for blind people which was the last thing I wanted to do! But it was the way in and after about two or three years I thought perhaps it would work on national radio. There was a programme called ‘In Touch’ which was for blind people and I sent it to them. I thought I’ll get a job there and then I can start to do other things in national radio. It worked and I did exactly the same thing with television about fifteen years later. It is one of my proudest boasts that I did the first television news report by a totally blind person in this country.
What’s been your most memorable interview to date?
Very early on, I’d been doing some research on a programme and it was the day that Mick Channon, the legend of Southampton Football club, was picked for England. He was out on a golf course somewhere and I had to find him. Amazingly he jumped in his car and came to Southampton. It was right near the end of the programme and they didn’t have time to get anyone else to do the interview. So there I was interviewing my hero!
You’re still here living in Winchester, pretty much where you were born?
Yes absolutely, it is a brilliant county. We’ve got one of the best climates, a huge range of countryside and towns and I do genuinely love it. Where better to bring up your children!
You mention children. You have experience of the foster system here as well.
Yes I do. I thought, in what I now know is a rather over-romanticised way, that no kid should grow up in a children’s home if there were homes where they could be welcomed and loved. We said we didn’t want to do short term placements, which is actually what they really wanted of course because the real problem is finding short term places for people, so in the end we fostered Fiona in what was relatively long term. It’s a very long story and lots of things went wrong but ultimately they went right. I’m still in touch with Fiona now, she’s in her early forties, and I still regard her as one of my four children. If you asked me what I was proudest of, it actually wouldn’t be broadcasting or writing a book, it would be having a go at trying to foster.
So what are your plans for the future?
I intend to go on doing what I’m doing now! I want to stay in Hampshire, I love it and wouldn’t move anywhere else. And I’m not going to stop working. If people will give me the chance to go on working, I’ll go on working.
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