BBC Studios CEO Tim Davie has been named as the new director general of the BBC. He succeeds Tony Hall, who is stepping down after seven years leading the British broadcaster.
Davie was the hot favorite for the role, with Deadline revealing that he was the frontrunner back in April. He first joined the BBC in 2005 as marketing director, rising to take charge of the corporation’s audio unit, before being appointed as BBC Studios CEO in 2012. He had a brief spell as interim director general before Hall’s arrival in 2013.
Davie said he was “honored” to be appointed to the biggest job in British media. “This has been a critical time for the UK and these past few months have shown just how much the BBC matters to people. Our mission has never been more relevant, important or necessary. I have a deep commitment to content of the highest quality and impartiality,” Davie added.
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He will earn £525,000 ($663,000) in his new role, which is 17% more than Hall’s salary of £450,000. It still represents a pay cut for Davie, however, given he earned £600,000 last year running the BBC’s commercially-funded subsidiary BBC Studios. The £525,000 salary will not kick in until August 2021, until which time he will take home the same as Hall. This is because there is a senior management pay freeze at the BBC.
Hall announced his decision to leave in January and BBC chairman David Clementi has overseen a four-month recruitment process to find a new leader for the license fee-funded institution. Davie beat a shortlist of candidates that included BBC director of content Charlotte Moore, Amazon UK chief Doug Gurr and Will Lewis, the former CEO of Dow Jones.
The recruitment process has not been straightforward, with a number of high-profile candidates declining to participate to focus on steering their businesses through the coronavirus-induced economic crash.
Deadline understands, for example, that All3Media CEO Jane Turton was shortlisted by the BBC, but decided to remain at the helm of the Discovery and Liberty Global-owned producer. Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon was another much-fancied contender who did not participate in formal interviews.
Clementi said: “Tim has a strong track record as the CEO of BBC Studios and is one of the most respected names in the industry. His leadership and experience, both outside the BBC and within, will ensure that we are well placed to meet the opportunities and challenges of the coming years.”
The new director general inherits a broadcaster in a confident mood, with its public service credentials and cultural significance having been burnished by its output during the coronavirus pandemic. But challenges loom.
The BBC has not escaped the economic pressures of the pandemic. It needs to save £125M ($156M) on top of its existing £800M cost-cutting target, and there is widespread acknowledgment that content and services will suffer.
The government is still working on plans to decriminalize license fee evasion — plans the BBC strongly opposes, saying they will cost it £1B over five years in lost revenue.
The debate sets the stage for an even bigger discussion over whether the license remains the best way of funding the BBC in the age of Netflix. This existential question will be resolved during charter renewal in 2027.
More pressing matters for Hall’s successor will include deciding whether to move youth network BBC Three back to television, wrestling with ongoing questions over the impartiality of its news output, and the intense talent turf war with American media giants.
Prior to joining the BBC in 2005, Davie held marketing roles at both Pepsico and Procter and Gamble. He has also spent years in the charity sector, as a trustee of Children in Need and chair of Comic Relief — a role he has just relinquished. In 2018, he was awarded a CBE by Queen Elizabeth II for services to international trade and is currently the co-chair of the government’s Creative Industries Council.
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