Deborah Turness announced as new chief executive of BBC News on £400,000 salary

Deborah Turness, who has been named as the BBC's new chief executive of news and current affairs. Photo Credit: RTS (Royal Television Society)

ITN’s chief executive Deborah Turness has been announced as the BBC’s new chief executive of news and current affairs.

She replaces Fran Unsworth, who is retiring after four years in the role and leaves the BBC at the end of January.

Turness, 54, joined NBC News in 2013, becoming the first female president of a American network news division, and later served as president of the network’s global arm.

Between 2004 and 2013 she was editor of ITV News – the first woman to hold the role.

She will be paid a salary of £400,000, an increase on Unsworth’s by around £60,000, and her start date will be confirmed in due course, the BBC said.

There had been speculation that Unsworth’s deputies Jonathan Munro, deputy director of BBC News, and Jamie Angus, senior controller of BBC News output and commissioning, were frontrunners for the role.

However, the position has gone to an external candidate.

Turness said:

“In the UK and around the world there has never been a greater need for the BBC’s powerful brand of impartial, trusted journalism.

“It is a great privilege to be asked to lead and grow BBC News at a time of accelerated digital growth and innovation, when its content is reaching more global consumers on more platforms than ever before.”

BBC director-general Tim Davie said:

“I’m delighted Deborah Turness is joining the BBC as our CEO for BBC News and Current Affairs.

“Deborah brings a wealth of experience, insight, first-class editorial judgment, and a strong track record of delivery.”

“She is a passionate advocate for the power of impartial journalism and a great believer in the BBC and the role we play, in the UK and globally.

“She will do a brilliant job of leading our news and current affairs as we deliver on the BBC’s public service mission in the digital age.”

The BBC said it had renamed the position from director to chief executive to reflect its “ambition to continue to build the BBC’s global news brand and continue to grow its news services”.

Sian Williams, presenter of 5 News, said on Twitter: “@deborahturness is awesome. We’ve loved having her at @itn – when we were relaunching @5_News she was in the gallery, fizzing with enthusiasm and ideas. You are very lucky to have her, @BBCNews.”

Channel 4 News presenter Cathy Newman said: “Very sad to see @deborahturness go. She’ll do a great job @BBCNews . A real trailblazing woman.”

Before being appointed to director of news and current affairs, Unsworth had worked at the BBC for more than four decades, having started her career in 1980 with BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat.

Her previous roles included BBC home news editor, head of political programmes, and head of newsgathering.

She was the BBC’s acting director of news and current affairs for periods between 2012 and 2013 and became the first female director of the BBC World Service Group in 2014, overseeing the biggest expansion of the World Service since the 1940s.


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