Duncan's appointment may outrage traditionalists

LONDON – Channel 4, Blighty’s edgy commercial web, has broken with tradition and appointed a marketing maven as its CEO instead of an exec from a creative background.

New topper is Andy Duncan, director of marketing, communications and audiences at the BBC, where he played a leading role in the success of Freeview, a digital terrestrial platform now in 4 million U.K. homes.

Duncan’s appointment will outrage traditionalists who think C4 should spend less time promoting itself to appeal to under-35 auds and devote more energy to taking creative risks.

His lack of experience – C4’s four previous CEOs all came from a creative background in TV – will intensify concern in some quarters about the outfit’s long-term direction at a time when it is facing increasing competition and a possible merger with rival web Five.

Few, however, could deny the boldness of appointing a relative newcomer to the TV industry to such an important broadcasting job. Move shows new chairman Luke Johnson’s ability to think outside the box.

Before joining the BBC in 2001, Duncan, 41, had worked in marketing at consumer goods giant Unilever for 17 years.

Johnson, whose background is as an entrepreneur, described Duncan as the brightest media executive of the Channel 4 generation.

He added: “I think he’s going to be a great champion of Channel 4’s public-service mission and its unique brand of creativity.”

Duncan said: “All broadcasters are under pressure from the growth of digital TV, but I believe Channel 4 can face the future with confidence.”

During his time at the BBC, Duncan oversaw the launch of digital services including BBC3 and 4 and kids nets CBBC and Cbeebies.

He will start work as soon as possible at C4, which is the midst of a ratings resurgence thanks to reality and factual shows like “Big Brother” and “Wife Swap.”

Duncan replaces Mark Thompson, who took over as the BBC’s director general last month.

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