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Davies confirmed as BBC chair

Millionaire economist tight with Labour government

LONDON — Gavyn Davies has been confirmed as the BBC’s new chairman, one of the most powerful jobs in U.K. media (Daily Variety, Sept. 17).

The appointment of the millionaire economist is certain to spark political debate as opposition politicians accuse the ruling Labour government of giving another top job in British public life to a close associate.

Davies, 50, had been vice chairman of the pubcaster. He is a close friend of both BBC director general Greg Dyke – also a Labour supporter – and Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer, Gordon Brown, the second most powerful politician in the country after prime minister Tony Blair.

Davies – who is reputed to be worth £160 million ($230 million) – has now quit the Labour party as well as his job as chief international economist and MD of investment bank Goldman Sachs.

Although chairing the BBC is a part-time job, Davies is expected to emulate his predecessor, Sir Christopher Bland, and be hands-on at the corporation, now adopting an even more dominant role in U.K. media because it is so well funded and enjoys enormous support from the government.

Having chaired an independent review of BBC funding in 1999, Davies has a unique understanding of broadcasting and public service broadcasting.

While those who know him do not doubt his intellectual abilities and commitment to public service broadcasting, some regard Davis as somewhat less than charismatic.

His appointment will be a relief to Dyke. There have been suggestions that had Davies not got the job, Dyke might have been forced to consider his own position.

Historically, the relationship between the BBC chairman and the DG has been crucial to the organization’s future. In the past, tensions have arisen between the two, most famously in the mid-80s when the then new chairman Duke Hussey fired DG Alasdair Milne.

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