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Beeb chief segues to indie

Heggessey will succeed Fincham

LONDON — Lorraine Heggessey, controller of BBC1 and one of the BBC’s most senior creatives, is leaving to become CEO of leading U.K. indie TalkbackThames.

Heggessey will succeed Peter Fincham at the FremantleMedia-owned combo, where she will oversee a wide range of fare including drama, reality and comedy shows.

She will report to FremantleMedia topper Tony Cohen.

Rumors have been rife in London media circles for weeks that the feisty and well-respected programmer would be ankling the BBC.

Under her guidance, BBC1 emerged as Blighty’s most popular web, for the first time overtaking ITV1, as more coin was plowed into drama and entertainment.

Heggessey’s hits include spy skein “MI-5” and the old-fashioned entertainment vehicle “Strictly Come Dancing.”

Critics accused Heggessey of dumbing down the web after she scaled back current affairs and arts shows, but as the BBC negotiates the renewal of its Royal Charter, which controls its spending, BBC1 has begun to move upscale.

There is no obvious favorite to succeed Heggessey, but one possibility must be Channel 4’s director of television, Kevin Lygo.

A move would reunite him with BBC director-general Mark Thompson, the man who hired him at C4 before Thompson rejoined the Beeb.

In a statement, Heggessey said: “After almost five years as controller of BBC1, I feel I am ready for a new challenge and could not pass up the opportunity to join one of the U.K.’s most respected production companies.”

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