Michael Tracey (born August 1948) is a British-American academic and producer with a specialty in public service broadcasting. He acquired notoriety as a result of his tenure as the head of the Broadcasting Research Unit in London, Britain's leading think tank dealing with media issues, and later with his investigative reporting of the murder of JonBenét Ramsey. He is the author of The Decline and Fall of Public Service Broadcasting and the Production of Political Television. He is currently a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Tracey earned a bachelor's of arts in politics from the University of Exeter in 1971, followed by a PhD in mass communications in 1974 from the University of Leicester. From 1981–88, he was the director of the Broadcasting Research Unit in London. He has been a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder since 1988.
Tracey is the producer of three documentaries about the Death of JonBenét Ramsey. He has been a strong advocate of the innocence of JonBenét's parents and critic of the media frenzy that implicated the parents. On July 9, 2008, twelve years after the murder, DNA revealed that it was not the parents, but an unidentified man responsible.
Tracey has a history of identifying false leads in the murder investigation. In his film Who Killed the Pageant Queen?, which aired June 16, 2004 in the United Kingdom, Tracey claimed to have "stunning new evidence" that was leading police to a previously unidentified "prime suspect." According to Tracey, it was the "investigators’ top priority" to find this suspect, but they were stymied because he had gone "underground."
All of these claims were proved false:The "suspect" turned out to be John Steven Gigax. Tom Bennett of the Boulder District Attorney's office has stated more than once that Gigax was never a suspect.
Gigax had not fled from authorities or gone "underground"; he was easily found with an Internet search, because he openly runs a jewelry sales web site.
Gigax's only tie to the Ramsey case is tenuous at best: he was an acquaintance of Michael Helgoth, who was briefly considered a suspect.
Gigax is attempting to initiate legal action against Tracey for falsely implicating him in the murder.
Tracey identified John Mark Karr to the Boulder authorities as a person who should be investigated in the Ramsey case. Karr's confession to the crime earned widespread attention, but DNA tests later ruled him out as a suspect.
Tracey and Karr began corresponding in 2002, approximately two years before the film that implicated Gigax was seen by the public. Radio host Peter Boyles believes that Tracey was "grooming" Karr to be the next suspect. Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy made the decision to have Karr arrested, and transported from Thailand to Los Angeles to Boulder, spurred by information provided by Tracey.
Colorado Governor Bill Owens said Lacy should be "held responsible for the most expensive DNA test in Colorado history," referring to the test that exonerated Karr.
Tracey was once a columnist for the Rocky Mountain News.