The new Director-General of the BBC is an Old Whitgiftian.
It was announced today that Tim Davie will become the Corporation’s 17th DG in September, when Lord Tony Hall steps down.
A scholarship boy at Whitgift School in the late 1970s, after Cambridge University Davie went into marketing, working for Proctor and Gamble and Pepsi, where he oversaw a switch in their packaging to blue. He joined the BBC, as “director of marketing, communications and audiences” (think W1A) in 2005.
Davie has never made a programme.
Davie, 53, has been a member of the Conservative Party, having twice run for election as a councillor in Hammersmith in the 1990s, and serving as deputy chairman of the party in Hammersmith and Fulham (a grander-sounding position than it probably is).
According to the Grauniad today, the first issue Davie will have to deal with “is placating a government that, powered by the anti-media fury of the prime minister’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, spent the start of the year proposing to cut the BBC down to size – boycotting key political programmes and launching a still-ongoing consultation on decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee”.
During his time at the BBC, Davie has worked as interim DG (after George Entwhistle scurried from Broadcasting House in an unseemly hurry in 2012), and most recently been the managing director of BBC Studios, what was BBC Worldwide, the BBC’s international branding exercise that supplements the Corporation’s licence fee income with millions of dollars of overseas sales.
The Guardian’s media editor, Jim Waterson, suggests that Old Whit Davie’s appointment as director general is a deeply political one.
He reports, “The BBC chairman, David Clementi, who led the appointment process, will also have been well aware that his own term on the corporation’s board runs out at the start of 2021. He will have been well aware that if the board appointed a left-field candidate then, in less than a year, ministers could appoint a new BBC chairman with the instruction to sack the director-general.”
Davie is not the first product of Whitgift School to have run a national broadcaster.
Andy Duncan, who by a remarkable coincidence was Davie’s predecessor as the BBC’s director of marketing, communications and audiences, was also privately educated in South Croydon. He left the BBC to become chief executive of Channel 4 in 2004, a post he held until 2009.
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