Mavericks in the making: Dateline UK

Music stops, everyone changes jobs in the UK
June 1, 2008

Music stops, everyone changes jobs in the UK
Dawn Airey must have a lovely garden, with lots of gnomes to keep her company. You’d really want some company when you spend that much time cooling your heels.

Airey is once again off on ‘gardening leave’ after leaving her post as managing director of ITV Global Content to return to the sunnier shores of her previous stomping ground, Five. ITV has indicated that it will hold Airey to the 12 months’ notice she was required to offer, as per her contract, meaning the exec won’t be able to take over as chair and chief executive of Five for a little while yet. (She was also held to a non-compete clause after her departure from Sky in 2007.) Though Five’s fortunes have been up and down, during Airey’s previous tenure the channel fared particularly well, so here’s hoping the past can repeat itself.

Meanwhile, three other main execs changed jobs in the UK on the same day – May 12. Over at the BBC, Jay Hunt began her tenure as BBC1 controller; while previous controller (unceremoniously ousted during ‘Queengate’) Peter Fincham took over ITV1 as director of television; Ben Gale, in the meantime, left the Beeb (where he served as commissioning editor for features and formats) for Five and his new role as director of programs. Gale will have the run of the place for the next little while – until Airey is allowed to stop watering the petunias.

All four execs face challenges: the BBC is in the middle of historic restructuring; ITV (though the sked was largely rebuilt by Fincham’s predecessor Simon Shaps) has been losing ground and must be retooled; and Five is… well, Five – there’s lots of work to be done, and Gale doesn’t have his competitors’ bank accounts. But each of these names carry some pedigree, so look for interesting upheavals to begin shortly in the UK broadcast landscape… again.

Happily out of the headlines this time around, after an ugly Big Brother scandal last year, is Channel 4. The network that celebrated its 25th year in 2007 is quietly returning to form under the watchful eye of head of programs, Julian Bellamy. If the channel remains true to its roots and historical precedent, it’s only a matter of time before C4 comes out of its shell again – with a bang.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.