Turness, who effectively takes on one of the most high-profile news roles in the U.K., takes over from Fran Unsworth following what the BBC has described as a “competitive” recruitment process. The latter 40-year BBC veteran revealed in September that she would be stepping down at the end of January.
A trailblazer in the world of news, Turness served as the first president of NBC News International, the global arm of the U.S. broadcaster’s news division, where she was responsible for overseeing its operations including editorial, production and commercial. She joined NBC News in 2013, becoming the first woman in the U.S. to be president of a network news division, leading a team of over 3,000 journalists and technicians.
At NBC News, she oversaw all editorial content and commercial revenues, including the brands “Today,” “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt,” “Meet the Press” and “Dateline.”
Turness moved to ITN only in April, taking over from Anna Mallett, who went to Netflix. At the BBC, Turness is the first executive to have a “CEO” title for news. Unsworth and her predecessors have all had “director” titles. The BBC has said the CEO title reflects its ambition “to continue to build the BBC’s global news brand and continue to grow its news services, which are now reaching a record 456 million people worldwide.”
Turness will also be nominated to join the corporation’s board.
BBC chief executive Tim Davie, who was interviewed by Turness during the Royal Television Society conference in September 2021, praised the exec as bringing a “wealth of experience, insight, first-class editorial judgement, and a strong track record of delivery.”
“She is a passionate advocate for the power of impartial journalism and a great believer in the BBC and the role we play, in the U.K. and globally,” continued Davie. “She will do a brilliant job of leading our news and current affairs as we deliver on the BBC’s public service mission in the digital age.”
Turness added: “In the U.K. and around the world, there has never been a greater need for the BBC’s powerful brand of impartial, trusted journalism. It is a great privilege to be asked to lead and grow BBC News at a time of accelerated digital growth and innovation, when its content is reaching more global consumers on more platforms than ever before.”
Turness, who will be paid £400,000 ($550,000) per year in the role, will oversee a team of around 6,000 people. Her start date is still unknown.
Following her work at NBC News, Turness moved to ITN, which is the primary news production outfit for U.K. broadcasters ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. There, she led the company’s post-COVID growth strategy across its newsrooms, long-form production and commercial/branded content.
Prior to joining NBC News, Turness was editor of ITV News, where she was their first female editor and the youngest editor of ITV News. During her tenure, the outfit won an Emmy and three consecutive BAFTA awards, as well as several RTS Program of the Year awards. She also completed a mini-MBA course at Ashridge Business School while in the role.