LONDON — In a surprise move, one of Blighty’s leading indies has landed what is arguably British television’s key commissioning and scheduling job.
Peter Fincham, who earlier this year announced he was standing down as CEO of TalkbackThames to “spend more time with his family”, is to become controller of BBC1, the pubcaster’s flagship service.
Responsible for controlling a budget of around £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 considerable coup for the BBC and it’s 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 the Corp’s staff.
It is understood that it took Thompson’s personal intervention to persuade Fincham to take the job.
Fincham’s name has been linked previously with the CEO’s chair at Channel 4, Blighty’s commercial public service web, and he has built Talkback into one of the U.K.’s independent production powerhouses.
Under the stewardship of outgoing controller Lorraine Heggessey, who, ironically, is leaving the BBC to take Fincham’s job, BBC1 for the first time ever overtook ITV1 as the U.K.’s most popular network.
With more and more U.K. homes taking multi-channel services, and the emergence of personal video recorders, broadband and VOD services, Fincham will have his work cut out maintaining BBC1’s strong performance and ensuring the web remains popular with auds without unduly compromising the BBC’s public service remit.
Heggessey was criticized for being too driven by ratings, 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.
Announcing the decision to appoint Fincham BBC director of television Jana Bennett said: “”If there are maybe 10 people who have shaped television over the last decade, Peter is one of them.
“He has a formidable track record in delivering original and outstanding programs across a range of modern public service genres, and the knack of making them appeal to broad audiences.
“From authored voices, like Stephen Poliakoff’s “The Lost Prince,” to new entertainment formats like “X Factor” and factual series like “Jamie’s Kitchen,” he has been involved in some of the most respected and acclaimed programming of recent times.
“Peter has run an incredibly successful business but has done it along highly creative lines, and he has a strong grasp of the importance of creativity in the competitive environment of broadcasting.
“He is known as someone who attracts the best talent, supports the best ideas and then backs them with a tenacious passion.”
Fincham said: “I am used to being responsible for a wide range of programs and BBC1 stands for range, quality and integrity. It also has a unique breadth of appeal.
“The BBC is going through big changes, but BBC1 remains its flagship channel and reinterpreting and reinvigorating it for new audiences is about as exciting a challenge as it gets.”