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Home > Perspective


Forces of nature

By David Jenkinson 15-10-2017

September saw Annie Wegelius and David Lyle lose their battles with cancer. C21’s editor-in-chief and managing director reflects on the impact they both had on the international entertainment business and the legacies they leave behind.

David Lyle

The entertainment business was dealt a cruel blow in September with the loss of two of its most cherished executives, far too young. 

Both David Lyle and Annie Wegelius lost their battles with cancer within days of each other, leaving behind enormous legacies and drawing fitting tributes from the people whose lives they touched and inspired.

In 25 years of reporting on this business I’ve not experienced such a disturbance in the force, and a sense of loss from the global community.

Annie and David both inspired the people around them. And it’s strange, but they really did share a special something – a kind of wisdom that just made things better. It was a twinkle in the eye, raised eyebrow or passing smile, as if they had the answer and all you had to do was find the right question and you’d figure things out too. Their generosity in support of others on that journey was what made them great.

Anyhow, I’m clearly not alone in appreciating the huge contributions they made to the business. Tributes came thick and fast, and more will certainly be paid in the future.

David Lyle was one of the pillars on which the unscripted television business was built, but he didn’t start his career in entertainment. His first jobs were as an exploration geologist and chemistry teacher in Australia, before he was seduced by the dark side. 

He worked as a writer and producer at Network Ten in Australia, and then Nine Network, where he rose to head of development and acquisitions and had his first brush with reality TV and formats. As president of entertainment at FremantleMedia North America, he launched American Idol and went on to become president of Fox Cable Networks’ Fox Reality.

David was CEO of National Geographic Channels between 2011 and 2014 and most recently helped organise unscripted producers, leading to the merger of PactUS, of which he was chairman, with the Nonfiction Producers Association to form NPACT.

Along the way he influenced many.

“David was a dear friend, confidante, raconteur and legend. He shall be missed here, there and everywhere – especially at the bar at the Carlton Hotel with a dram in his hand, a smile on his face and a story in his heart. Frapa and the entire industry have lost one of the greats,” said friend and formats industry veteran Phil Gurin, president of unscripted and alternative at IM Global TV.

“David was a champion for the underdog creators, a passionate advocate for formats and a true believer who inspired countless producers, format creators and channels the world over.

“He co-founded Frapa many years ago to help bring order out of the chaos of the formats industry, where copying was no longer seen as the sincerest form of flattery but more like what it is: copyright infringement and IP theft.”

“David was a brilliant mentor and friend,” said Howard Owens, founder and co-CEO of Propagate Content. “His vision spanned the globe at Fremantle, National Geographic Channels and beyond. He believed in creativity, took risks and always had your back. We will all miss him dearly.”

“David Lyle was a rare breed, in our industry and in the world. A true ‘bon vivant,’ he brought light and life into every room, along with a passion for the creatives of this business,” John Ford, general manager at NPACT said on behalf of the entire organisation and producers’ community. “We will all miss David’s maverick mettle, along with his vitality, brilliant insights and humour, and offer our deepest condolences to his wife Janne, his children Sam, Polly and Joanna, and his many friends and colleagues.”

Annie Wegelius

David died on September 21, and days later news broke of the passing of Annie Wegelius, former programme director at Swedish public broadcaster SVT and pioneer of reality TV formats, again from cancer.

Annie had a career in television spanning four decades, was programme director at SVT from 2007 to 2013 and before that was the first programme director of TV3. She also launched her own prodco, Wegelius TV, and had a long list of globe-trotting formats among her credits, such as Big Class Reunion and Friends Forever.

SVT’s current MD, Hanna Stjärne, said: “SVT is in mourning today. Annie Wegelius brought colour, power and warmth to everyone she met. The sense of loss of a friend is felt deeply, at SVT, in the Swedish TV industry and among colleagues around the world.”

Markus Sterky, the pubcaster’s content strategist, added: “Annie was not your usual public service person, and that is perhaps why she was so good at it. Her natural entrepreneurial talent combined with curiosity meant you never knew what would happen next, but her energy and passion helped you believe, and made you want to help her achieve the goal.”

“Annie was a true Nordic TV ambassador. With her big public service heart and strong commercial instinct, she was instrumental in making the Nordics the creative hot spot it still is. The Nordic TV industry owes her a lot and we have lost an amazing personality and a warm-hearted TV professional. My thoughts and condolences go out to her family and friends,” added Frapa exec and Missing Link CEO Jan Salling.

“Annie’s energy and enthusiasm made everyone around her bolder and more creative, making her the perfect television maestro,” said Stephen Mowbray, head of acquisitions at SVT.

“Annie was so exceptional. I was a huge admirer of her; she was a role model to me. Such a rare combination of creativity and acute business sense. She was smart, stylish and elegant. A true power woman with incredible charisma and a rare presence and ability to focus on the moment, ignoring all the clutter and noise. I am so saddened by Annie’s passing. Her fight was awe-inspiring – I will always think of her as a winner,” added Anette Rømer, head of acquisitions and formats at TV2 in Denmark.

So we will raise a glass to both Annie and David in Cannes this week, and perhaps, with Bananarama quietly singing ‘It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it, and that’s what gets results’ in the background, toast two remarkable people who we may want to remember, not just for what they did, but for what they taught us along the way.

I would suggest that if any of us really aim to achieve something in this business it should be to build a legacy as close to Annie and David’s as we can get. And to leave this business, and the people we touch within it, wanting more. More of both of them would have been something to cherish.

today's correspondent

David Jenkinson Editor-in-chief & managing director
David Jenkinson perspective

David Jenkinson is an award-winning journalist, content technologist and multi-platform publisher.

 Having held senior editorial positions at Haymarket, International Thomson, EMAP and Cahners’ Moving Pictures International, in 1997 he created and co-founded C21Media – one of the world’s first internet publishing businesses.

For more than a decade C21 has defined new content models, supported by a traditional publishing portfolio, while positioning itself at the heart of the digital revolution, launching brands including, FutureMedia, M21, Channel 21 International and the mothership:

Prior to launching C21Media, Jenkinson was editor-in-chief of Moving Pictures International, running daily, weekly and monthly publications within the film business. 

He led EMAP’s TV World to win the prestigious PPA International Business Magazine of the Year award in 1993, and worked as part of the senior editorial management team at International Thomson.