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Beeb lands indie ace

Embattled pubcaster recruits new controller

LONDON — Peter Fincham, who earlier this year announced he was leaving his CEO post of TalkbackThames, is becoming controller of BBC1, the pubcaster’s flagship service.

Responsible for controlling a budget of £800 million ($1.5 billion), and such high-profile fare as “Strictly Come Dancing,” “Doctor Who” and flagging soap “EastEnders,” Fincham will take over early this summer.

His appointment represents a coup for the BBC and its embattled director-general, Mark Thompson, now attempting to reposition the pubcaster for the digital age and in the midst of cutting around one fifth of its staff.

Fincham’s name has been linked previously with the CEO chair at Channel 4, Blighty’s commercial public service web, and he has built Talkback into one of the U.K.’s production powerhouses.

Under the stewardship of outgoing controller Lorraine Heggessey, who, coincidentally, is leaving the BBC to take Fincham’s job, BBC1 for the first time overtook ITV1 as the U.K.’s most popular network.

Heggessey was criticized for being too ratings driven, but most insiders regard her as one of the most successful BBC1 heads in recent times.

She ran a web where shows as different as “Strictly Come Dancing” and “Walking With Dinosaurs” could both win peak time slots.

‘Formidable track record’

BBC director of television Jana Bennett touted Fincham’s “formidable track record in delivering original and outstanding programs across a range of modern public service genres,” adding, “Peter has run an incredibly successful business but has done it along highly creative lines.”

Fincham, meanwhile, enthused about BBC1’s breadth of appeal, noting, “I am used to being responsible for a wide range of programs and BBC1 stands for range, quality and integrity.”

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