James Arnold Baker is leaving his post as chief executive of BBC Enterprises , the pubcaster’s commercial arm, to take charge of the publisher Oxford University Press.
The move means he also will step down as chairman of BBC World Service Television, and will leave the BBC’s board of management.
His BBC pact runs out in September.
BBC Enterprises handles the pubcaster’s overseas program sales, as well as its highly successful book, magazine and video publishing activities.
Behind satellite move
Recently Arnold Baker, who joined the company in 1986, was a prime force behind its move into satellite broadcasting, with the launch last year of UK Gold, a satellite TV service that relies heavily on reruns of BBC programs and is 20% owned by BBC-E.
BBC-E has said it is studying the possibility of launching other satellite channels, possibly specializing in lifestyle or documentary programming.
However, these activities have attracted a lot of criticism from the BBC’s rivals, who argue that the publicly funded broadcaster should not interfere in the commercial marketplace.
ITV chiefs, and even some prominent BBC exex, such as BBC1 controller Alan Yentob, have criticized the pubcaster’s involvement in UK Gold.
They argue that it is not in the BBC’s best interests to encourage the growth of satellite and cable TV viewing, which will erode the market share of all four terrestrial TV channels, including BBC1 and BBC2.
The departure of Arnold Baker places a question mark over the future direction of BBC-E. The BBC is involved in delicate negotiations with the government over the renewal of its Royal Charter and public funding after 1996, and the role of BBC-E, as a supposedly commercial operation within a public-service institution, is coming under particular scrutiny.