LONDON — Richard Dunn, former chief executive of Thames TV and one of British broadcasting’s most senior figures, died suddenly Tuesday. He was 54.
As head of London’s main ITV station, Dunn was a leading player in the ITV network during the 1980s, chairing both the ITV Association and Independent Television News. He was also a member of the International Council of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Dunn was at the forefront of developing multi-channel TV in the UK. Thames was a founding investor in Societe Europeene des Satellites, which launched the now dominant Astra satellite system, and Dunn also helped create the satellite channel UK Gold.
He was director of programs at Thames in 1986 when the station produced its hugely controversial documentary “Death on the Rock,” which accused British soldiers of assassinating three suspected IRA terrorists in Gibraltar.
The show enraged then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher and triggered her determination to destroy the old ITV culture by exposing it to the chill winds of market forces. She achieved this through the notorious 1991 ITV license auction, in which Thames was the highest-profile casualty, losing its franchise to Carlton.
Dunn led the company in its defeat, and afterward spearheaded its transformation into an independent production power-house, and its sale to Pearson.
After serving two years at Pearson, he left to become executive director of Rupert Murdoch’s News Intl., but that association did not last long. In recent months, Dunn had started his own pay-per-view venture, and was acting as a consultant to the U.K.’s soccer Premier League.
Dunn, who died at his home in Berkshire, leaves a wife, Virginia, and three children.