BBC Vision chief nabs most powerful job in U.K. TV

LONDON — George Entwistle, the director of BBC Vision, has been tapped as director general of the BBC, the most powerful job in U.K. broadcasting.

He nabbed the pubcaster’s top job after a second round of interviews took place Tuesday. Others on the shortlist are thought to have included Caroline Thomson, BBC chief operating officer, and Ed Richards, the chief exec of media regulator Ofcom.

The final selection was made by Chris Patten, the chairman of the broadcaster’s governing body, the BBC Trust, his deputy, Diane Coyle, and the heads of the five trust committees.

Entwistle, who Patten described as a “creative leader for a creative organization,” will have a salary of £450,000 ($704,641) a year, about 67% of the amount earned by the current director general, Mark Thompson, who steps down in the fall.

After studying philosophy and politics at Durham University, Entwistle joined the BBC in 1989 as a broadcast journalism trainee. He went on to be editor of “Newsnight,” a late-night news analysis show, and then head of current affairs. Up until last year, he was controller of knowledge commissioning, looking after the Beeb’s educational, history and science shows.

As director of BBC Vision, he controlled the commissioning of all TV programs and the scheduling of all BBC TV channels.

As director general, Entwistle will be the BBC’s chief exec and editor-in-chief, as well as chairman of its exec board.

One of his most important tasks will be to negotiate the renewal of the BBC’s charter, which sets out what is does, how it is managed and how it is funded. The present charter runs out in 2017.

He will also have to implement the budget cuts that Thompson agreed in the fall of 2010, after two weeks of frenetic talks with the U.K.’s coalition government, which will see the BBC’s spending power reduced to 80% of the current figure by 2016.

In a statement, Patten said: “George is a creative leader for a creative organization.

“His experience of making and delivering great programs that audiences love — built up through many years of working for the corporation — will prove invaluable as he and his team work to ensure the BBC remains the greatest broadcaster in the world.

“Above all George is passionate about the BBC, is committed to its public service ethos and has a clear vision for how it can harness the creativity and commitment of its staff to continue to serve audiences in ever more innovative ways.”

Thompson, who became director general in May 2004, is widely regarded as having done a good job at the BBC, restoring stability after his predecessor, Greg Dyke, was forced to resign following a row with then-prime minister Tony Blair’s government over how the BBC reported the run-up to the Iraq war.

Patten said: “(Thompson’s) creativity, vision and leadership have made him an outstanding director general of the BBC and he will be sorely missed.”

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