Former Broadcast news editor Jake Kanter shares his memories of the Mercury Media boss

I had the privilege of knowing Tim Sparke for more than five years, but I like to think I got a measure of the man within five minutes. A mere sapling in the often thorny world of television,

Tim put me at ease instantly when we first met on the sun-soaked harbour of La Rochelle in 2010. “I love having lunch with journalists,” he told me.

It is a line that has always stuck with me and, looking back, it revealed much about his character. First, it was an insight into Tim’s natural warmth and zest for life. A gift that was utterly infectious.

Second, Tim genuinely did love the company of journalists.

Whether it was through relationships he forged with wonderful film-makers at Mercury Media, or gossiping about the tittle-tattle of telly with me and others, Tim revelled in storytelling.

He was also persistently mischievous and ready to challenge the establishment. Take a look through the Broadcast archive and you will find stories of Tim taking on Tesco, the BBC and the government.

There was always a new wheeze to grow his beloved Mercury too. It meant Tim tried his hand at diversifying into production, crowd funding a Manchester United doc and launching online documentary portal Joining the Docs.

He carved out a brilliant niche for himself: one where he could be the frontman of a successful business, but also a maverick with a moral compass.

This attitude burned bright even when cancer took hold. It was best captured in interviews Tim did for Radio 4’s Today programme, where he spoke about managing a business after being diagnosed with a terminal illness. The interviews also captured Tim’s relentless positivity.

How many people would describe losing brain function as “annoying but cope-able”?

Then there was this line: “Probably the most pleasure I get on a daily basis is listening to the trains at the end of my street. Every 10 minutes, I hear a train and that tells me every 10 minutes: I’m still alive.”

Moving, defiant and funny.

It was fitting that one of my final conversations with Tim was over lunch in 2015. Sat in one of his favourite haunts, Cafe Boheme in Soho, Tim was still telling stories and giving me ammunition to fill the pages of Broadcast.

This time, he had secured the ear of BBC director general Tony Hall and was on a mission to increase the number of acquired docs being made available to licence fee payers. It’s a story with all the right ingredients and Tim knew it.

This is what made Tim a great contact. But above all, he was a great friend.