Thomson, Richards tipped for BBC top job

Former BBC COO Caroline Thomson (pictured, left) and Ofcom CEO Ed Richards (right) are being tipped as the frontrunners to become the new BBC director-general, as the crisis facing the UK pubcaster deepened today.
November 12, 2012

Former BBC chief operating officer Caroline Thomson (pictured, left) and Ofcom CEO Ed Richards (right) are being tipped as the frontrunners to become the new BBC director-general, as the broadcaster’s director of news today stepped aside amid a continuing crisis at the UK pubcaster.

Thomson and Richards are being tipped by many UK news organizations (Telegraph, BBC News, Guardian) as the likely replacement for George Entwistle – who resigned as BBC DG over the weekend after just 54 days in the post – as is Tim Davie, currently the broadcaster’s acting DG.

Davie, Thomson and Richards were in the running for the DG job previously, but lost out to Entwistle. Thomson left the BBC in September shortly after Entwistle’s appointment, while Davie was named CEO of the broadcaster’s commercial arm, BBC Worldwide (BBCWW) – a role he is due to take on next month. Richards remains CEO of regulator Ofcom.

BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten – who himself is fending off calls from papers and politicians to resign – has said the Trust expects to appoint a new DG in the next few weeks; however, Davie’s arrival at BBCWW could be delayed if the process takes longer.

The news comes as the crisis affecting the British pubcaster grew today (November 12), with the Corporation announcing this morning that director of news Helen Boaden and deputy director of news Stephen Mitchell would both be standing aside.

In addition, the BBC is drawing further fire after it announced plans to pay Entwistle a full year’s salary of £450,000 (US$715,000), bringing condemnation from politicians across both sides of the British political spectrum, as well as from newspapers, commentators and pundits.

Though Entwistle is contractually only entitled to half the amount given to him, the BBC Trust said the payment – which amounts to $12,715 for each day in the top job – factored in future work in helping the BBC in its investigations.

Entwistle resigned over the weekend following news that emerged last Friday that long-running news program ‘Newsnight’ incorrectly implicated Conservative peer Lord McAlpine in a story concerning child abuse at care homes in North Wales.

“In the light of the fact that the director general is also the editor-in-chief and ultimately responsible for all content, and in the light of the unacceptable journalistic standards of the ‘Newsnight’ film broadcast on Friday 2nd November, I have decided that the honorable thing to do is to step down from the post of director-general,” said Entwistle in his resignation statement.

Fran Unsworth, the head of the BBC’s newsgathering, and Ceri Thomas, editor of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ program, will become acting editor and acting deputy editor respectively for BBC News, while former head of Sky News Nick Pollard leads an inquiry prompted by the child abuse scandal surrounding late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile, who has become the subject of wide-ranging allegations of pedophilia. Pollard’s review will examine the BBC’s handling of material stemming from the investigation of those allegations.

Boaden and Mitchell “will be stepping aside from their normal roles until the Pollard review reports and they expect to then return to their positions,” the BBC said today.

Before taking on the DG role in September, Entwistle had served as head of BBC Knowledge, the Corporation’s factual division, and earlier in his career had served as deputy editor of ‘Newsnight.’

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Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.