C4 names Hunt as creative chief

TV exec exits BBC1 controller post

U.K. hybrid pubcaster Channel 4 has poached BBC1 controller Jay Hunt for the new post of chief creative officer. She will also join the web’s board.

For months U.K. TV folk have speculated that Hunt, despite having only been in her current job for two and a half years, would be the first big appointment by Channel 4 CEO David Abraham, who started work at the station in May.

The CCO role combines all programming functions with multiplatform commissioning and product development.

Abraham said: “Channel 4 requires a fearless creative leader to help steer us through our next phase and Jay has demonstrated across a variety of public service genres, as well as in commercial television, her appetite to challenge the status quo, create and lead change, and promote new talent.”

The ambitious Hunt, who has spent much of her career at the BBC, initially making public affairs and news shows, is a controversial figure to take over the creative leadership of Channel 4, which has a brief to back envelope-pushing shows.

However, in these uncertain times the web needs to boost its viewing figures.

Channel 4’s share of total U.K. TV viewing fell to 7.5% last year, down from 7.8% in 2008 and 8.6% in 2007.

While Hunt’s critics will claim her appointment is a sign that Abraham is more interested in commercial success than championing challenging content, her brief tenure at BBC1 was noted for some conspicuous successes.

These included the recent drama “Sherlock,” the 25th anniversary celebrations for flagship soap “EastEnders,” and the continued strong perf of “Doctor Who.”

She said: “I am proud of what has been achieved on BBC 1 under my leadership but could not resist the chance to join Channel 4 at such an exciting time.

“David’s vision for a converged creative business with real innovation at its heart is compelling. I wanted to be part of that.”

Hunt’s landing the Channel 4 gig is a blow to acting CCO, Julian Bellamy, who will exit following a short period of transition.