LONDON — The U.K. government has selected Rona Fairhead to be chairman of the BBC Trust, the public broadcaster’s governing body, the Department for Culture, Media & Sport confirmed Sunday. She will be the first woman ever to be in charge of overseeing the BBC.
Fairhead, who is the former chief executive of the Financial Times, said: “The BBC is a great British institution packed with talented people, and I am honored to have the opportunity to be the chairman of the BBC Trust.
“I am under no illusions about the significance and the enormity of the job, but I am excited to have the chance to lead the BBC through the coming years.”
Sajid Javid, the U.K.’s culture secretary, said: “Rona Fairhead is an exceptional individual with a highly impressive career history. Her experience of working with huge multinational corporations will undoubtedly be a real asset at the BBC Trust.
“I have no doubt she will provide the strong leadership the position demands and will prove to be a worthy champion of license fee payers. I am sure that under Rona’s leadership the BBC will continue to play a central role in informing, educating and entertaining the nation.”
Fairhead is an independent non-executive director of HSBC Holdings and non-executive chairman of HSBC North America Holdings. She is also a non-executive director of PepsiCo.
She served as chairman and CEO of the Financial Times Group for seven years until 2013, and as non-executive director of The Economist Group from 2006 to 2014. She was an executive director of their owners, Pearson, from 2002 to 2013, serving as Pearson’s chief financial officer from 2002 to 2006.
Fairhead will appear in front of the U.K. Parliament’s Media Select Committee on Sept. 9, and they will make a recommendation to Javid regarding the appointment, but he will make the final decision.
Her most important task will be to re-negotiate the terms of the BBC’s royal charter, which defines its purpose and the scope of its activities. This is reviewed every 10 years, and the current charter expires at the end of 2016.
Fairhead replaces seasoned Conservative politician Chris Patten, who stood down as BBC Trust chief in May on health grounds after three years in the position.
In the past few years, the BBC has been dogged by scandal, including revelations that veteran TV presenter Jimmy Savile was a serial sex offender, an expensive IT project was bungled, and executives were given overly generous payoffs.