People/Biz

Jonny Keeling named BBCS Natural History Unit head; Fran Unsworth to exit BBC

BBC Studios Productions has tapped Jonny Keeling as head of the Natural History Unit. He takes over from outgoing head Julian Hector, who leaves after a five-year stint that saw the Bristol-based ...
September 7, 2021

BBC Studios Productions has tapped Jonny Keeling as head of the Natural History Unit.

He takes over from outgoing head Julian Hector, who leaves after a five-year stint that saw the Bristol-based production house produce shows including Blue Planet II, Dynasties and the forthcoming The Green Planet for the BBC as well as its first original commissions for international broadcasters.

Reporting to Tom McDonald, BBC Studios’ MD of factual, Keeling assumes the role in December, and will be responsible for all of the NHU’s creative and commercial activity.

He is tasked with further developing the NHU’s presence in North America via NHU LA, and will play a leading role in the unit’s move to its new Bristol premises.

Keeling’s credits as producer, series producer and executive producer include such landmark series as Planet Earth, Planet Earth II and Seven Worlds, One Planet.

As former head of NHU Children’s, he executive produced Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures and Deadly Pole to Pole and developed and delivered projects across a wide range of genres including animation, comedy and drama.

The NHU’s recent commissions include Frozen Planet II  and Chris & Megs’ Wild Summer, both for the BBC, as well as Apple’s The Year Earth Changed, National Geographic’s Ocean Xplorers, Endangered for Discovery and The Americas for NBCU.

McDonald said in a statement: “Jonny is one of the best blue chip Natural History executives in the industry – and has a depth of experience not just in landmark programming but in a huge variety of tones and forms. As well as being passionate about the quality of the NHU’s programming, he’s a brilliant leader: ambitious and inspiring, and I cannot wait to work with him to continue the NHU’s incredible growth.

Keeling added: “My ambition is simple – to produce high-quality content that’s original, ambitious and compelling and to ensure that the NHU remains the most respected maker of wildlife programming in the world.”

BBC news, current affairs director to exit

On the heels of Keeling’s appointment, Fran Unsworth, BBC director of news and current affairs, confirmed plans to step down in early 2022 after 40 years with the pubcaster.

The process to appoint her successor will begin shortly, the BBC stated.

“I leave BBC News in the hands of an incredibly strong team which is committed to remaining at the forefront of the world’s journalism. Through them, the BBC will be as relevant as it has been for the last 100 years. I am proud to have served BBC News and our audiences,” Unsworth said in a statement.

Unsworth became director of BBC News and Current Affairs in January 2018. In this role, she has overseen all of the BBC’s news and current affairs programming.

The Beeb’s current affairs programming includes the long-running documentary strand ‘Panorama.’

About The Author
Jillian Morgan is the Associate Editor at Realscreen with a background in journalism and digital marketing. She joined the publication in 2019 after serving as the assistant editor to trade publications HPAC and On-Site. With a bachelor of journalism from the University of King's College in Halifax, she also works as a freelance writer and fact-checker.

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