Esther Rantzen, who was born in a Jewish family on 22 June 1940 in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, is a famous English journalist and television presenter. She attended North London Collegiate School, Camden Town and Somerville College, Oxford. While she was in the college, Esther Rantzen was a part of Oxford University Dramatic Society (OUDS). She married Desmond Wilcox, a famous film-maker, in December 1977. He died at the age of 69 after suffering coronary heart disease for 15 years.
Esther Rantzen took training in typing and shorthand and joined as a trainee studio manager with BBC Radio. Her career in the small screen began when she got the post of clerk in the programme planning department, and later became a researcher on BBC One late-night programme, BBC3. After working as a researcher for several current affairs programmes, Esther Rantzen joined the crew of award-winning BBC Two documentary series Man Alive in 1960. In 1968, she became the researcher and the presenter in the consumer show of Bernard Braden, a Canadian-born English actor and comedian, Braden's Week. Esther Rantzen became popular after appearing on BBC One TV programme That's Life!, which was aired almost for 21 years from 1973 to 1994. Unlike other consumer programme, it was intended to help the mankind by focusing on life and death issues prevailing in the public. In 1976, Esther Rantzen devised the documentary series, The Big Time. This series is credited for discovering the talented Sheena Easton, a Scottish pop singer, theatre and television actress. Her efforts, along with others, laid the foundation of TV-am, a breakfast television station. Esther Rantzen made many innovative programmes like The Lost Babies on stillbirth and Trouble in Mind on mental health.
In 1985, Esther Rantzen presented a programme on drug abuse, Drugwatch, and in 1986, she produced and presented a new programme Childwatch, which provided an insight on child abuse and also campaigned for legal reforms to prevent it. In 1988, she created a TV series called Hearts of Gold, to celebrate people who have done unsung acts of outstanding kindness and courage. In 1990, she presented a talk show Esther on BBC Two that received two BAFTA award nominations. Esther Rantzen co-presented a campaigning program That's Esther on ITV. Esther Rantzen made appearances in the TV programmes like Would Like to Meet, Excuse my French and Watchdog. She made a documentary for ITV Winton’s Children on Sir Nicholas Winton, who rescued the generation of Czech children from their doomed fate in the Nazi death camps before World War II.
After the death of her husband, Esther Rantzen made a programme How to Have a Good Death, a programme on soothing care, which was aired on BBC Two. She appeared on the ITV show I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!.
Esther Rantzen also took the credit of establishing ChildLine, a free 24-hour counselling service for children and young people in the UK. It deals with all issues that cause distress for children and also addressed concerns like child abuse, bullying and sexual abuse. Later, ChildLine merged with NSPCC, a UK-based charity that campaigns and works for child protection. Esther Rantzen was the President of ChildLine and worked as a volunteer counsellor. She was also the Trustee of NSPCC and spokesperson for children's rights. In 2007, Esther Rantzen opened Desmond Wilcox Media Centre in Rainhill High School, located in Merseyside, and every year she presents Desmond Wilcox Award to volunteers working for the “Hearing Dogs for the Deaf” charity.
Esther Rantzen received honorary doctorates from Southampton Institute, London South Bank University and Portsmouth University, for the creation of ChildLine as well as for her public awareness programmes. She was raised from an Officer of OBE to the Commander of OBE on 17 June 2006 for her services to children. Esther Rantzen has received several professional awards like ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ from Women in Film and Television, ‘Royal Television Society's Special Judges' Award’ for Journalism, ‘their Fellowship’ and ‘Membership of their Hall of Fame’. She became the first woman to receive a ‘Dimbleby Award’ from BAFTA for factual presentation and also received the ‘Snowdon Award’ for her services to disabled people. Esther Rantzen is a patron of various hospitals and charities for disabled people like the Iain Rennie Hospice at Home, Hillingdon Manor School for autistic children, North London Hospice and Campaign for Courtesy. She was a member of government committees like National Consumer Council, Health Education Authority and Campaign for Quality Television.