Willis tapped to fill United Film & TV post

LONDON — John Willis, the former director of programming at Channel 4, has been appointed managing director of United Film & Television Prods., the network production division of media group United News & Media, effective Dec. 1.

Willis, 51, left C4 in September in the wake of ex-BBC director of television Michael Jackson becoming C4’s new chief exec, a position Willis also was seeking. He is replacing Vernon Lawrence at UFTP, who is being upped to the post of exec chairman at the company.

Willis will take charge of current production at UFTP and a budget boosted to $293 million for 1998 from $209 million this year. UFTP produces programming for the ITV network and Channel 5. Although the budget is for TV production, film production also is in the cards at some point in the future.

Willis said: “My appointment signals United’s absolute determination to build their program-making into a major national and international production studio. I am excited by the potential for growth across all program areas.”

In his nine years at C4, five as director of programming, Willis engineered the channel’s expansion into film, leading to pics “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Trainspotting,” and oversaw its unique TV output with innovative shows such as sitcom “Father Ted” and the satirical “Rory Bremner — Who Else?”

The highly regarded Willis is believed to have had the pick of many jobs, such as director of the British Film Institute, or heading up programming at Granada Television or Yorkshire Television.

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