Esther Rantzen was born in Hertfordshire. Educated at a North London School, she went on to Somerville College, Oxford to achieve a MA (Hons) in English. Her broadcasting career started in 1963 as a sound effects manager for BBC Radio's Drama Department then as a researcher and reporter for BBC TV. In 1973 she produced and presented the long-running consumer BBC TV series That's Life!, a job which she was still doing until the final show in 1994.
In between years, she also produced and presented many other BBC TV documentary series including The Big Time, Having a Baby, The Lost Babies (on stillbirth), Drugwatch, The Gift of Life (special about transplants) and Trouble in Mind (on mental illness).
In the 1980s she produced and presented three programmes about child abuse called Childwatch, on the first of which, she launched the charity Childline, the free national helpline for children in trouble or danger, of which she is Pesident. She was the presenter of Esther, BBC's topical discussion programme and producer/presenter of Hearts of Gold and That's Esther. Recently, she produced and presented a landmark programme 'How to Have a Good Death'.
Esther supports many medical and patient's charities. She is vice president of ASBAH (to support spina bifida children), and Scope (formerly the Spastics Society). She is a patron of Addenbrookes Kidney Patient's Association, the Downs Syndrome Association, Headway (National Head Injuries Assocition), Children Head Injuries Trust and ADFAM (The National Charity for the Families and Friends of Drug Users). She is President of the ME charity for young people, AYME.
Amongst her many awards are BBC TV Personality of 1975 (Variety Club of Great Britain), the special judges' Award for Journalism in 1986 (Royal Television Society) and the 1988 Richard Dimbleby BAFTA Award. In 1991 she was awarded an OBE for services to broadcasting. She has also co-authored the books Kill the Chocolate Biscuit (with Desmond Wilcox), Baby Love (with Desmond Wilcox) and Ben, The Story of Ben Hardwick (with Shaun Woodward). Her autobiography is called 'Esther' and her first novel, set in TV is 'A Secret Life'.