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TLC’s Bennett tapped to lead BBC Television

Exec to relocate to London in April

NEW YORK — The BBC has appointed Learning Channel topper Jana Bennett to the post of director of BBC Television.

Bennett will stay on as exec VP and general manager of TLC until mid-April, when she will relocate to London to take the BBC job, which is the British equivalent of president of the TV division.

From 1979-’99, Bennett worked at the BBC, rising from a producer and head of the science department to director of production and director of programming.

Reporting to Bennett will be all operations and programming of BBC1, BBC2, the Flextech commercial operation and such new channels as BBC4 (focusing on documentaries, art and performance) and BBC Choice (a young-adult-oriented digital service). The job became vacant when Mark Thompson left to become head of England’s Channel 4.

“My job will be keep BBC1 and BBC2 strong while the company continues to move in a serious way from analog to digital,” Bennett said. She added that BBC1 has just beaten the independent ITV in the ratings for the first time since 1956, an achievement that she hopes to continue without “dumbing down the programming” of the network.

It’ll be easier for Bennett to “take risks in programming,” as she puts it, because BBC1, BBC2 and BBC3 are commercial-free; they don’t have to kowtow to advertisers who hate controversy.

At Learning Channel for the last three years, Bennett worked on such audience-pleasing series as “Junkyard Wars” and “Trading Spaces.”

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