UPDATE, SUNDAY 12:19 PM PT: It’s official: The British government has confirmed that former publishing executive Rona Fairhead has been named as next chair of the BBC Trust, the governing body of the BBC, one of the world’s largest and most influential broadcasters.
PREVIOUS, SATURDAY 11:18 PM PT: Former Financial Times Group chief executive Rona Fairhead is understood to have been selected by the British government as the next chair of the BBC Trust, the body that oversees the BBC. Fairhead still has to be questioned by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, and signed off on by the Queen, but BBC News reports Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said she was the government’s preferred candidate. Should she garner all the necessary stamps of approval, she would be the first woman to chair the organization. She would replace Chris Patten who resigned from the post in May following heart surgery. He had absorbed some of the criticism for the BBC’s handling of the Jimmy Savile sexual-abuse revelations and subsequent Newsnight scandal that rocked the UK pubcaster.
Fairhead was at the helm of the FT Group from 2006-2013, is a non-executive director at HSBC and PepsiCo, and this year was appointed a British business ambassador by David Cameron. On her docket as chair of the Trust would be significant involvement in negotiations over the BBC’s royal charter and license-fee settlement. The annual bill Britons pay which supports the broadcaster is frozen until 2017 and has been the focus of much debate, with many calling for its abolition.
Candidates have not clamored to take on the BBC Trust chairmanship during a difficult appointment process. Former MP (and Olympic Gold Medalist) Sebastian Coe, who oversaw the 2012 London Olympics; Arts Council chief and TV mogul Peter Bazalgette; and former Pearson head Marjorie Scardino all ruled themselves out, the FT notes.
In the BBC’s last annual report, Patten said the corporation “seriously let down both itself and license-fee payers. Trust in the institution took a hit as a result, although it has begun to recover.”
Executive payouts also received criticism after former general director Mark Thompson, who left in September 2012 to be CEO and president of The New York Times Co, and George Entwistle, who left two months later amid the Savile revelations, took with them hefty exit packages.