Airey eyed for ITV

Likely will head its international production arm

LONDON — There is growing speculation that U.K. TV highflier Dawn Airey is close to being tapped by ITV to run its international production business.

Airey, who recently quit a senior role at satcaster BSkyB to run the abortive Iostar upstart, which recently went into liquidation, is a former colleague of new ITV topper Michael Grade. The two worked together when Grade ran Channel 4 in the 1990s.

Airey, CEO of Channel Five prior to joining BSkyB, was close to signing a contract with ITV for a senior role in late summer 2002 but surprised industryites by joining the paybox instead.

“ITV has been looking for a while for a big international production job,” one person in the know said. “They approached a number of candidates — including some of the people they spoke to about the chief executive job. Headhunters were also hired. It’s been going on for about a month.”

In many ways, ITV is Airey’s spiritual home. She never ceases to praise the web’s flagship soap, “Coronation Street.” Also, Airey began her TV career at ITV license holder Central Television and went on to lead ITV’s children’s and daytime department.

Were she to accept an ITV offer, it would be Grade’s first big executive signing since he arrived at the broadcaster in January.

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