Martin Sixsmith was born in Cheshire and educated at Manchester Grammar School followed by Oxford, Harvard, the Sorbonne and in St. Petersburg, Russia. He was a Slavics Tutor at Harvard and wrote his postgraduate thesis about Russian poetry.
From 1980 to 1997 he worked for the BBC, including postings as BBC correspondent in Moscow (for five years), Washington (four years), Brussels (four years) and Warsaw (two years). He covered the end of the Cold War and also reported from Poland during the Solidarity uprising and was the BBC's Washington correspondent during the election and first presidency of Bill Clinton.
From 1997 to 2002 he worked for Tony Blair's Labour Government as Director of Communications (a civil service post), first with Harriet Harman and Frank Field, then with Alistair Darling and finally with Stephen Byers. He left after raising concerns about the Government's laissez-faire attitude to telling the truth.
He is a writer, presenter and journalist, broadcasting on literature and music on BBC Radio Four and working on the political sitcom series, 'The Thick of It', on BBC TV.
Sixsmith's book, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, was the basis for the 2013 film Philomena, in which Sixsmith is played by Steve Coogan.