Insider Tim Davie picked to head BBC

World | 5 Jun 2020 10:42 pm

Tim Davie, the head of BBC Studios who turned down an offer to run the Premier League last year, has been appointed as the corporation’s next director general, The Guardian reports,

Davie, 53, who has responsibility for monetising brands from Top Gear to Doctor Who around the world, was considered the frontrunner to take over from Tony Hall on 1 September.

The BBC board selected Davie from a shortlist of candidates that included Charlotte Moore, the BBC’s director of content, Will Lewis, the former chief executive of the publisher of the Wall Street Journal, and Doug Gurr, the head of Amazon’s UK and Ireland operations.

His appointment comes in spite of calls to appoint a woman to the most senior role at the BBC for the first time in its history. In the last three years both ITV and Channel 4 have appointed their first female chief executives, Carolyn McCall and Alex Mahon respectively. Davie is the 17th successive man to be appointed to the role of director general since the BBC was founded in 1927.

“It would have been right to have a woman now. It is disappointing,” said Carrie Gracie, the BBC’s former China editor. “I do feel Tim understands the challenges of the BBC. He’s thought hard about them. I think he is a man with a plan. But obviously he is white, male and Oxbridge. He’s not diverse.”

Sir David Clementi, the chair of the BBC board, who led the recruitment process, said: “Tim has a strong track record as the chief executive of BBC Studios and is one of the most respected names in the industry. We know that the industry is undergoing unprecedented change and the organisation faces significant challenges as well as opportunities. I am confident that Tim is the right person to lead the BBC as it continues to reform and change.”

A former Procter & Gamble and Pepsi marketer, Davie previously ran the BBC’s audio and music operation and acted as director general during the Jimmy Savile crisis, before Lord Hall was appointed. Last year Davie turned down an offer to be chief executive of the Premier League.

Davie joined the BBC in 2005 as head of marketing and is the corporation’s top-paid executive, taking home £642,000 last year. He will have to take a significant pay cut in his new role: Hall received £475,000 in pay and benefits. Davie has agreed to be paid the same as Hall until August next year, when his pay will increase to £525,000. The BBC says the pay rise is in line with inflation since 2012, the last time the director general’s pay increased.

Davie, who in the nineties spent a spell as deputy chairman of the Hammersmith and Fulham Conservative party, takes the reins at a critical juncture. There are threats to the BBC’s licence-fee-funded model as it battles to remain relevant to youth audiences in the Netflix era.

The corporation is facing a mid-term review of its royal charter in 2022, which will focus on the cost and long-term future of the licence fee. Boris Johnson has talked about decriminalising non-payment of the £154.50 annual fee, which the BBC has said would cost it hundreds of millions of pounds as more people would choose not to pay.

Under Hall, the BBC agreed with David Cameron’s government that it would take on the £745m annual cost of providing free licences for people over the age of 75 as part of its licence fee deal in 2015.

Davie will be responsible for implementing the unpopular policy of making more than 3 million over-75s start paying the licence fee. The corporation had been due to start charging earlier this year but pushed it to 1 August because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Davie also faces the prospect of dealing with a potentially hostile new chairman. Clementi’s tenure comes to an end early next year and the new chairman will be appointed by the government, which has been increasingly combative with the corporation since Johnson came to power last year.

“This has been a critical time for the UK and these past few months have shown just how much the BBC matters to people,” Davie said. “Looking forward, we will need to accelerate change so that we serve all our audiences in this fast-moving world. Much great work has been done, but we will continue to reform, make clear choices and stay relevant.”

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