Austen Kark

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Austen Kark CBE (20 October 1926–10 May 2002) was a managing director of the BBC World Service. He was one of three former holders of that post, along with Gerard Mansell and John Tusa, to oppose the plans of John Birt to merge the service into the BBC. After Birt became director general of the BBC in 1992, he had planned to end the service's independent status at Bush House in central London, and absorb it within the rest of the corporation.

Kark led a varied career before his tenure with the BBC. He was the son of a London army major who became a publisher. He attended Upper Canada College in Toronto, the Nautical College in Pangbourne, the Royal Naval College, and Magdalen College, Oxford. He became a Royal Navy midshipman in 1944, serving two years with the East Indies fleet, aboard HMS Nelson and HMS London.

In 1948 at Oxford, Kark directed the first production of Jean-Paul Sartre's The Flies. He later joined his family's magazine business, Norman Kark Publications. One of its magazines was the glossy literary magazine Courier. Kark married Margaret Schmahmann in 1949; they had two daughters. The couple divorced in 1954. Kark married Nina Bawden the same year and became stepfather to her two sons. They had one daughter. He became a BBC reporter in 1954 and became head of the South European service at Bush House in 1964. His experiences in South Europe fuelled his interest in the region, particularly Greece; he would later write guidebooks about the country.

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