The Info List - Bill Cotton

Sir William Frederick "Bill" Cotton CBE
(23 April 1928 – 11 August 2008)[1] was a British television producer and executive, and the son of big-band leader Billy Cotton.


1 Early life 2 Professional career 3 Honours 4 References 5 External links

Early life[edit]

Ardingly College

Following a secondary education at the independent school Ardingly College, he joined BBC Television
BBC Television
as an in-house producer of light entertainment programmes in 1956, working on various programmes such as his father's Billy Cotton Band Show and popular music programme Six-Five Special. Professional career[edit] In 1970, Cotton was promoted to Head of Light Entertainment, following the death of Tom Sloan in May. In this position, Cotton was responsible for overseeing the production of a whole series of popular and iconic comedy programmes, including The Morecambe and Wise
Morecambe and Wise
Show (1968–77), Monty Python's Flying Circus
Monty Python's Flying Circus
(1969–74), The Two Ronnies (1971–87), Bruce Forsyth
Bruce Forsyth
and the Generation Game (first run 1971–77) and Look: Mike Yarwood (1971-76). Cotton's era was generally seen as the most eclectic in the history of BBC Light Entertainment, with programmes such as Morecambe and Wise
Morecambe and Wise
becoming icons of British popular culture and drawing huge audiences, while the more subversive Monty Python provided a more cutting-edge, contemporary and daring complement. Cotton's success as Head of Light Entertainment led to his promotion to Controller of BBC1, the Corporation's premier and the UK's oldest television station, in 1977. He oversaw some of the channel's highest-ever audience figures in 1979, although this was mostly due to the main opposition, ITV, being on strike for over two months. In 1981, he was replaced as controller of BBC1 by Alan Hart and made the BBC's deputy managing director of television under Alasdair Milne. In 1984 Cotton was promoted to become managing director of Television, a role he fulfilled until his retirement from the Corporation in 1988. During this final period at the BBC he was involved with Michael Grade and Jonathan Powell in the attempted cancellation of Doctor Who
Doctor Who
in 1985 after a run of 22 years on the BBC, a decision which became an 18-month hiatus following a tabloid backlash (the series wasn't completely axed until 1989).[2] Cotton subsequently did some freelance executive producing work in the light entertainment area and served as chairman of Noel Gay Television. He was deputy chairman of Meridian Broadcasting from 1992 to 1996, then chairman until 2001. Honours[edit] Cotton was a Vice-President of the Marie Curie Cancer Care
Marie Curie Cancer Care
charity. He received a BAFTA
Fellowship Award in 1998. He was made a Knight Bachelor for his services to Television Broadcasting and Marie Curie Cancer Care in 2001.[3] He had previously been awarded a CBE
in 1989[4] and an OBE
in 1976.[5] He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1995 when he was surprised by Michael Aspel at Castle Ashby
Castle Ashby
in Northamptonshire. Guests included Paul Fox, Brian Tesler, Michael Grade
Michael Grade
and Billy Marsh. BBC Two broadcast an evening of programmes that he commissioned as part of a tribute night to him on Boxing Day 2008, including the Morecambe & Wise Christmas Show of 1971, The Generation Game Christmas Show of 1973, and The Two Ronnies
The Two Ronnies
Old Fashioned Christmas Mystery of 1973. There was also a documentary about his career with Michael Grade, Bruce Forsyth, Michael Parkinson, Ronnie Corbett, Terry Wogan, and Paul Jackson among those paying tribute, in addition to this a two-part documentary about his life and career was broadcast on BBC Radio 2 on New Year's Eve 2008 and New Year's Day 2009 presented by Paul O'Grady. References[edit]

^ "Sir Bill Cotton
Bill Cotton
dies in hospital". BBC News. 11 August 2008. Archived from the original on 30 December 2008. Retrieved 11 August 2008.  ^ Doctor Who: The Eighties. David J. Howe. Mark Stammers. Stephen James Walker ^ The London Gazette, 16 June 2001. Retrieved 11 August 2008. ^ The London Gazette, 17 June 1989. Retrieved 11 August 2008. ^ "Sir Bill Cotton: BBC TV managing director and BBC1 controller (Obituary)". The Times. London. 12 August 2008. Retrieved 12 August 2008. 

External links[edit]

Bill Cotton
Bill Cotton
on IMDb Bill Cotton's appearance on This Is Your Life Sir Bill Cotton
Bill Cotton
– Obituary from The Guardian

Media offices

Preceded by Bryan Cowgill Controller of BBC One 1977–1981 Succeeded by Alan Hart

v t e

Morecambe and Wise

Eric Morecambe Ernie Wise


Hills and Green Eddie Braben John Ammonds Ernest Maxin


Running Wild (1954) Two of a Kind (1961–68) The Morecambe & Wise Show (1968–83) The Morecambe & Wise Show (1978–83)

Episode Lists

Two of a Kind (1961-68) The Morecambe & Wise Show (1968-77) The Morecambe & Wise Show (1978-83)


The Eric Morecambe
Eric Morecambe
and Ernie Wise
Ernie Wise
Show (1975-78)


The Intelligence Men
The Intelligence Men
(1965) That Riviera Touch
That Riviera Touch
(1966) The Magnificent Two
The Magnificent Two
(1967) Night Train to Murder (1983)


"Bring Me Sunshine"

Books by

Eric & Ernie: The Autobiography of Morecambe & Wise (1973) Morecambe & Wise: There's No Answer To That! (1981) Still On My Way To Hollywood (1990, Wise only)

Television tributes

Bring Me Sunshine: A Gala Evening (1984) Bring Me Sunshine: Morecambe & Wise (1994) Morecambe & Wise: Greatest Moments (2008) Bring Me Morecambe & Wise (2012)


List of joint appearances Fools Rush In (1973) The Passionate Pilgrim (1984) The Importance of Being Ernie (1990) The Play What I Wrote
The Play What I Wrote
(2001) Morecambe and Wise: In Their Own Words (2007) Morecambe (2009) Eric and Ernie (2011)

v t e

Fellowship recipients


Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock
(1971) Freddie Young (1972) Grace Wyndham Goldie (1973) David Lean
David Lean
(1974) Jacques Cousteau
Jacques Cousteau
(1975) Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin
(1976) Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier
(1976) Denis Forman (1977) Fred Zinnemann
Fred Zinnemann
(1978) Lew Grade
Lew Grade
(1979) Huw Wheldon
Huw Wheldon
(1979) David Attenborough
David Attenborough
(1980) John Huston
John Huston
(1980) Abel Gance
Abel Gance
(1981) Michael Powell
Michael Powell
& Emeric Pressburger
Emeric Pressburger
(1981) Andrzej Wajda
Andrzej Wajda
(1982) Richard Attenborough
Richard Attenborough
(1983) Hugh Greene (1984) Sam Spiegel
Sam Spiegel
(1984) Jeremy Isaacs (1985) Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg
(1986) Federico Fellini
Federico Fellini
(1987) Ingmar Bergman
Ingmar Bergman
(1988) Alec Guinness
Alec Guinness
(1989) Paul Fox (1990) Louis Malle
Louis Malle
(1991) John Gielgud
John Gielgud
(1992) David Plowright (1992) Sydney Samuelson (1993) Colin Young (1993) Michael Grade
Michael Grade
(1994) Billy Wilder
Billy Wilder
(1995) Jeanne Moreau
Jeanne Moreau
(1996) Ronald Neame
Ronald Neame
(1996) John Schlesinger
John Schlesinger
(1996) Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith
(1996) Woody Allen
Woody Allen
(1997) Steven Bochco
Steven Bochco
(1997) Julie Christie
Julie Christie
(1997) Oswald Morris (1997) Harold Pinter
Harold Pinter
(1997) David Rose (1997) Sean Connery
Sean Connery
(1998) Bill Cotton
Bill Cotton
(1998) Eric Morecambe
Eric Morecambe
& Ernie Wise
Ernie Wise
(1999) Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor
(1999) Michael Caine
Michael Caine
(2000) Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick
(2000) Peter Bazalgette
Peter Bazalgette


Albert Finney
Albert Finney
(2001) John Thaw
John Thaw
(2001) Judi Dench
Judi Dench
(2001) Warren Beatty
Warren Beatty
(2002) Merchant Ivory Productions (2002) Andrew Davies (2002) John Mills
John Mills
(2002) Saul Zaentz
Saul Zaentz
(2003) David Jason (2003) John Boorman
John Boorman
(2004) Roger Graef (2004) John Barry (2005) David Frost
David Frost
(2005) David Puttnam
David Puttnam
(2006) Ken Loach
Ken Loach
(2006) Anne V. Coates (2007) Richard Curtis
Richard Curtis
(2007) Will Wright (2007) Anthony Hopkins
Anthony Hopkins
(2008) Bruce Forsyth
Bruce Forsyth
(2008) Dawn French
Dawn French
& Jennifer Saunders
Jennifer Saunders
(2009) Terry Gilliam
Terry Gilliam
(2009) Nolan Bushnell
Nolan Bushnell
(2009) Vanessa Redgrave
Vanessa Redgrave
(2010) Shigeru Miyamoto
Shigeru Miyamoto
(2010) Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg
(2010) Christopher Lee
Christopher Lee
(2011) Peter Molyneux
Peter Molyneux
(2011) Trevor McDonald (2011) Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese
(2012) Rolf Harris
Rolf Harris
(2012) Alan Parker
Alan Parker
(2013) Gabe Newell
Gabe Newell
(2013) Michael Palin
Michael Palin
(2013) Helen Mirren
Helen Mirren
(2014) Rockstar Games
Rockstar Games
(2014) Julie Walters
Julie Walters
(2014) Mike Leigh
Mike Leigh
(2015) David Braben (2015) Jon Snow (2015) Sidney Poitier
Sidney Poitier
(2016) John Carmack
John Carmack
(2016) Ray Galton & Alan Simpson (2016) Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks
(2017) Joanna Lumley
Joanna Lumley
(2017) Ridley Scott
Ridley Scott

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 24109995 LCCN: