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‘He would have hated it’: TV legend David Leckie receives top honour

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Once one of the most powerful figures in Australian television, David Leckie, has posthumously been made a Member of the Order of Australia, in recognition of his significant contribution to the broadcast industry over four decades.

Leckie, who passed away last July after a long illness, was the former chief executive of the Nine and Seven Networks. His wife Skye Leckie said it was an honour that celebrated his legacy.

David Leckie, who transformed the Nine and Seven Networks into top-performing television stations, died last year, aged 70.Credit:Michelle Mossop

“To take two networks to number one is a pretty high achievement,” she said. “Harry, my son, said at the funeral that he did have a mistress, and it was in the shape of a television. That was his first love.

“I think it is a great recognition of, believe it or not, a man who never really wanted the spotlight on him, like his wife. He would be awkwardly embarrassed, but on the inside, he’d be really, really chuffed.”

Educated at Newington College and Macquarie University, Leckie, who was once referred to as “The Great One”, was regarded as a force of the Australian television industry. He helped rescue and rebuild the Seven Network after being sacked from rival Nine in 2001. Leckie had led Nine to be the top-rating commercial network in Australia.

His recognition comes two months after the 100th birthday of his father, Ron Leckie. “The Queen was busy this year writing to the Leckies,” quipped Skye Leckie.

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During Leckie’s time at Nine from 1991 to 2001, the network had only six weeks when it didn’t win the ratings, allowing it to boast over and over again it was “Still the One”. In 2003, Seven chairman Kerry Stokes offered Leckie the opportunity to run his then struggling television network. He turned around the fortunes of Seven by choosing programming that appealed to a laid-back suburban demographic, which he referred to as the Australian heartland.

Seven West Media boss James Warburton said the honour was richly deserved, but his former colleague would have found it uncomfortable. “He would have hated it,” he said. “He never wanted to be in the public spotlight, and always wanted Seven and its people, to receive the accolades. I know Skye and their boys would be very proud of him today.”

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