Insider on track to succeed Mark Thompson as director-general
LONDON — A BBC insider has been tapped as the new director of BBC Vision, arguably the most important creative job at the corporation.George Entwistle, who had been doing the job on a temporary basis since January after the old incumbent, Jana Bennett, quit in December, takes over the job with immediate effect. He also joins the BBC’s executive board, the body responsible for the day-to-day running of the pubcaster. Widely liked and respected but relatively low key and cerebral, Entwistle in his new job has responsibility for overseeing all the org’s U.K. TV channels, plus BBC Films, Vision Productions and “editorial oversight” for pay TV portfolio UKTV, owned jointly with Virgin Media. The huge role means Entwistle is in charge of more than 20,000 hours of TV a year. He said: “I am genuinely honored to have been chosen for the role of director, BBC Vision. “The BBC’s television portfolio is of enormous importance to the creative and cultural life of the U.K., and is performing strongly in terms of quality and audience reach and share. “At the heart of its success, BBC Vision Productions is responsible for some of the best television programs we broadcast.” Unusually for a BBC high flyer, Entwistle was educated at Durham University, rather than Oxford or Cambridge. He joined the BBC in 1989 as a journalism trainee, after working as a business journo at Haymarket Magazines, and proceeded to work on public affairs shows such as “Panorama” and “Newsnight.” Rising through the ranks, Entwistle’s first big job was in 2001, when he was appointed editor of one of the corp.’s flagship public affairs shows, “Newsnight.” He subsequently became controller of commissioning at the vast BBC Knowledge department. There he was responsible 1,600 hours of TV a year across the arts, history, natural history, business, science, religion, consumer journalism and contemporary factual. Entwistle’s other jobs at the pubcaster have included being acting controller of upscale niche web, BBC4. His appointment as director of BBC Vision puts Entwistle in a strong position to succeed Mark Thompson as director-general. There is speculation that Thompson will leave the corp. following next year’s London Olympics.