Dedicated broadcaster was much loved

OBITUARY Rebecca TriggerThe West Australian

Never a stranger to controversy, Bill McCutcheon braved death threats and reported on sweeping changes to the agricultural landscape in the South West for more than 30 years.

Friends and colleagues have remembered the veteran journalist - who passed away last month at the age of 72 - for his hard-bitten humour and vast network of contacts in the farming community.

"He had been doing it for years, people trusted him so they would ring him with story ideas and their concerns," said ABC Regional Radio program director Sarah Knight, who worked with Mr McCutcheon in Bunbury early in her career.

During his coverage of the wool stockpile in the late 1980s, when the bottom fell out of the market and the reserve price was set staggeringly high, farmers were ringing the station with death threats.

"The wool stockpile had been growing and growing and Bill did both sides of the story - those who wanted the reserve price to stay and others who wanted it to go," Ms Knight said.

"When (it was) finally decided (it would go), there were a lot of angry people listening.

"Police were driving past to make sure he (Bill) was safe, there were death threats to the office, people said 'come near my property and I'll greet you with a gun'. Passions were really running high."

Former colleague Owen Grieve, 65, described Mr McCutcheon as a good communicator who was absolutely focused on getting the best for agriculture.

"Bill's sense of humour … a lot of farmers might say that he grizzled so much he might as well have been one of us," Mr Grieve said.

"To me he was just always a good bloke, easy to get along with, always good for a chat, always good to have a beer with, just an all-round nice fella and workmate."

Close friend and former boss John Barnett, 73, described him as a man totally devoted to his audience and mates. Their friendship spanned more than 50 years after they met in agricultural college.

They went on to work together at the ABC and reported on decades of change in agriculture.

"They were very exciting times," Mr Barnett said.

"There was the subclover revolution, on the down side of things there were wheat quotas, poly pipe was invented."

Bill's son, Graeme McCutcheon, remembered him as a man who would bend over backwards to help his friends.

"Dad was one of those people who if a friend was in trouble nothing was too much," he said.

Bill McCutcheon worked for the ABC from 1963 to 1996 as a rural reporter for the South West. His career included stints in television and radio.

He is survived by his wife, Jean, Graeme and daughter Larissa.

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