Obituaries: Other lives: Sue Stoessl
(Guardian (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) My friend and colleague Sue Stoessl, who has died of cancer aged 75, excelled as a market researcher, particularly in television audience measurement. She was, successively, head of marketing at London Weekend Television, an ITV success story; critically influential in the exciting, early days of Channel 4; and head of audience research at the BBC under John Birt. The numbers there were bigger, the chilled air more rarefied.
Sue was born into an influential Jewish family in Vienna, where her father was managing director of the city's international trade fair. In the aftermath of the Kristallnacht attacks in November 1938, her father placed an advertisement in the Domestic Situations Required column of a London newspaper: "Despairing Austrian Couple with two children (boy aged 8, girl aged 18 months) obliged to leave Vienna, seek work in England, colonies, or Dominions . . . " The plea was heeded by two Quaker sisters, Freda and Kathleen Rawlins, who sponsored the family to come to live with them in Bexhill, East Sussex.
With the Rawlins' help, the family settled in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, where they took in orphaned children fleeing from Nazi Europe. Sue's mother died when she was eight, and her father soon remarried. After Berkhamsted school for girls, Sue studied economics and statistics at Nottingham University. A practical person, she found work fast.
She mastered the basics of her trade at Television Audience Measurement (TAM), then at the Broadcasting Audience Research Bureau (BARB). Later she served a term as director of the Market Research Society. Sue had an alert mind and was quick to take decisions, expressed herself clearly, made her opinions felt forcibly. Yet she spoke quietly, with a glint in her eye, and a smile, so gently that you might easily miss the steel within.
In debate, she stuck to her guns. At C4, she admonished me often. "Don't put that programme on in peak," she would say, "when the opposition is at its strongest. Play it late; put the educational series in mid-evening." She was always right. When our share of audience rose, on the road to viability, to 4%, she took her department away on a day trip to Calais. They adored her.
Much later, when she left the BBC, she took on consultancies, and a non-executive directorship or two. She devoted herself to charities, notably Find Your Feet, working in impoverished parts of India, which she chaired in 1988 and was involved with until she died.
In the early 80s, she met the industrialist Ron Halstead, a widower with two young sons, and they married in 2000. Aware what it meant to lose a mother, she wholeheartedly took over as stepmother to the boys. It was, they acknowledge, their good fortune. Sue is survived by Ron, his children and grandchildren, and by her half-sister, Michelle.
After working at Channel 4 and LWT, Sue Stoessl joined the BBC as its head of audience research
(c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
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