Beleaguered BBC starts search for new director general
It’s been a calamitous few weeks for the BBC and its flagship news bulletin Newsnight. Following Newsnight’s failure to follow up on sexual allegations surrounding former BBC DJ Jimmy Savile, it exacerbated the problem by ploughing into a new investigation which resulted in a Tory politician being wrongly implicated in a paodophile sex scandal.
As a result, we have now seen the resignation of Director-General George Entwistle and the “stepping aside” of head of news Helen Boaden. The controversy isn’t over either, with Lord McAlpine expected to sue various media outlets and politicians and commentators criticising the large pay-off awarded to Entwistle.
Life goes on, however, and attention is now turning to potential replacements for Entwistle – who lasted just 54 days in his post.
Chris Patten, chair of the BBC Trust, has said he wants the situation sorted out quickly (he might have to because there are also calls for his resignation). He is expected to go back to candidates who lost out to Entwistle earlier this year. But there are also a few interesting new names being added to the DG rumour mill.
An obvious candidate is Caroline Thomson, the BBC’s former COO, who narrowly lost out last time and has since left the corporation. A former journalist, she is a skilled corporate affairs executive and the most likely choice if speed of appointment is seen as a priority.
Other internal candidates include Roger Mosey, who oversaw the London 2012 Olympics coverage, and Peter Horrocks, a seasoned news exec who is currently in charge of Global News. Not to be overlooked either are Tim Davie, the 45 year-old marketing executive who has been named as acting DG during the current crisis, and Danny Cohen – currently controller of BBC1.
External candidates include Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards, though he is probably too left-leaning to secure the job. There’s also Channel 4 chief executive David Abraham and ITV director of television Peter Fincham. Fincham is clearly one of the most talented TV execs in the business but his appointment would probably attract some unwelcome headlines after the Crowngate scandal which led to his departure from the BBC in 2007.
Interesting long shots include Majorie Scardino, who is about to leave her post as CEO of Pearson, and Archie Norman – currently chairman of ITV (though Norman would actually be a more likely replacement for Patten than a candidate for the BBC’s editor-in-chief role, since he has no background as a journalist).