Former Olympic runner Sebastian Coe is leading the race for the top job at the BBC as his biggest rival is scratched from the running.
The five-name shortlist for the role of chair of the BBC Trust, the broadcaster’s governing body, has excluded the leading BBC Trust insider, Diane Coyle, according to the Guardian newspaper.
Coyle, an economist and former journalist, took the reins at the Trust after former chair, Chris Patten, unexpectedly quit in May due to health concerns. However, she has told co-workers that she has not made the interview shortlist, which is compiled by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.
Coe, who masterminded preparations for the London Olympics, is a favorite of the right-wing Prime Minister David Cameron, and sits with the Conservative Party in the upper house of the U.K. Parliament, the House of Lords. He has described the BBC post as a “very meaty job,” and said he would think carefully about applying. He was out of the country on Tuesday, and could not be contacted for comment, the Guardian said.
The interviews will be conducted by a panel led by the government’s cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood, the former BBC and ITV executive Carolyn Fairbairn, and surgeon Ajay Kakkar, who sits as an independent in the House of Lords. This will be followed by a further round of interviews conducted by the government’s culture secretary, Sajid Javid.
Others tipped as possible candidates include entrepreneur Martyn Rose, who is chairman of the English National Opera; Marjorie Scardino, former chief executive of the Financial Times-owner Pearson; Patience Wheatcroft, a Conservative Party member of the Lords, and former editor of the Sunday Telegraph newspaper and former editor of the European edition of the Wall Street Journal; and Sarah Hogg, a member of the Lords, and former policy chief to Prime Minister John Major, and a former BBC governor.
The BBC Trust job is seen by some as a poisoned chalice. The Trust was heavily criticized in the past few years following the BBC’s clumsy handling of the Jimmy Savile pedophile scandal; its botched round of executive pay-offs, which were seen as excessively generous; and its disastrous management of the Digital Media Initiative, a £100 million ($171 million) digital video archive system, which was exposed as a complete waste of money by a Parliamentary committee.
It is highly likely that the BBC Trust will be abolished in a few years. The BBC Royal Charter, a pact with the government that governs the broadcaster’s rules of engagement, is due for renewal in 2017, at which point the government is likely to rethink the BBC’s governing structure.