The process to appoint her successor will begin shortly, the BBC said.
Unsworth began her journalistic career in 1980 in BBC local radio, joining Radio 1’s Newsbeat. She had a stint as a network radio producer in Washington DC and later joined Radio 4’s The World At One and PM. She was appointed the BBC’s home news Editor and, in 2001, head of political programs. In 2005 she became head of news gathering, running one of the world’s largest news gathering operations with bureaux across the world. Between Nov. 2012 and Aug. 2013 she was the BBC’s acting director of news and current affairs, and then deputy director of BBC News and current affairs. Unsworth became the first woman director of the BBC World Service in 2014.
“After more than 40 years with the BBC, I have decided that the time is right for me to hand on the job of leading the world’s best news organisation,” Unsworth said. “I have had a ringside seat at some momentous events, including the Falklands War, the Troubles in Northern Ireland, wars in the Middle East, the death of Princess Diana, 9/11 and countless general elections. It has been a great privilege.”
“The jobs I’ve done have not always been easy. Undoubtedly, some were more fun than others. But I am proud to have done all of them – and to work for an organization which has such a vital and precious role in the UK and around the world,” Unsworth added. “The BBC is free of commercial and proprietorial pressure. Our bosses are the audiences we serve. I am honoured to have been part of it.”
BBC director general Tim Davie said: “Throughout Fran’s long and distinguished career she has embodied the values of BBC News. She is a world-class journalist and is respected and admired by colleagues across the BBC.
“Fran has taken BBC News through one of the most testing periods in its history, providing a vital service during the Covid-19 pandemic, when record audiences turned to BBC News.
“She has led BBC coverage during a period of momentous events at home and abroad, alongside leading a huge modernisation programme to reshape BBC News. Before this, as its director, she oversaw the biggest expansion of the World Service since the 1940s, which has proved a major boost to international coverage at a time of great international need.
“Fran has been a hugely valued member of the BBC’s executive committee and the BBC Board. She will be greatly missed by everyone at the BBC.”