THE woman behind groundbreaking North-East TV shows such as The Tube and Byker Grove has lost her battle against cancer.

Andrea Wonfor was one of Britain's first female television executives and enjoyed success in a career spanning more than 30 years.

She gave breaks to stars such as Ant and Dec, Chris Evans, Johnny Vaughan and Caroline Aherne, and spent four months persuading Jeremy Paxman to present the revived University Challenge.

She died aged 60 on Friday after a recurrence of breast cancer after a ten-year remission.

Tributes to her poured in over the weekend.

Charles Allen, the chief executive of ITV, said: "Everyone she met was touched by her energy, enthusiasm and amazing talent.

"Her love of television and love of people never erred."

BBC chairman Michael Grade, who worked with Mrs Wonfor when he ran Channel 4, said: "Andrea was the first woman of her generation to reach the executive heights, a champion of talent outside London, and she never made an enemy."

She was brought up in Canterbury, Kent, and studied at New Hall, Cambridge. Her father was from South Shields, South Tyneside, and she enjoyed family holidays in the region as a girl. She started as a trainee for Granada TV in 1966, then married and moved to the North-East, where she joined Tyne Tees.

She left after 18 years to run Newcastle-based independent Zenith North, and then moved to Channel 4 during Michael Grade's time in charge.

When she left Tyne Tees for Zenith North, her idea for a children's drama in the North-East resulted in Byker Grove and brought fame to Geordie pair Ant and Dec.

She went back to Granada in 1994 and became the company's first female director of programmes, and was joint managing director until 1999.

She was also the first chairwoman of the Royal Television Society, holding the post from 1996 to 1998.

In 1982, she launched The Tube from the Tyne Tees TV studios in Newcastle, and worked on the show with second husband Geoffrey.

At Channel 4, she went on to commission The Big Breakfast and The Word, before she returned to Granada. In 2002, she co-founded another independent company, Liberty Bell.

Mrs Wonfor, who lived in Ingoe, Northumberland, was given an OBE for her services to television in 2002.

She is survived by her husband and two daughters.