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January 6, 2022updated 30 Sep 2022 10:54am

ITN’s Deborah Turness named chief executive of BBC News and Current Affairs

By Bron Maher

The BBC has named current ITN boss Deborah Turness as its new chief executive for news and current affairs, replacing retiring incumbent Fran Unsworth.

Turness, whose start date has not yet been announced, will join on a salary of £400,000 and will be nominated to the BBC board.

Turness has been ITN’s chief executive since April 2021. Before that she was president of NBC News International, making her the first woman to head a US network news division.

[Read more: Hunt is on for new BBC head of news as Fran Unsworth resigns]

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: “Deborah brings a wealth of experience, insight, first-class editorial judgement, 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.”

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The use of the chief executive job title for Turness marks a departure, with Unsworth having held the job “director of news and current affairs”.

The BBC said that the “title of CEO reflects the BBC’s ambition to continue to build the BBC’s global news brand and continue to grow its news services, which are now reaching a record 456 million people worldwide”.

Turness’ new salary also appears to be a notable rise on the £340,000 Unsworth was paid.

Her appointment contradicts earlier reports in The Times that Turness had been reluctant to take the role, despite the enthusiasm of Davie.

Before moving to NBC in 2013, Turness was both ITV News’ youngest and first woman editor.

Her tenure at ITV oversaw notable exclusives including footage of the bloodied murderers of fusilier Lee Rigby in the immediate wake of his death, the arrest of two London bombing suspects in 2005, and a leaked investigation report into the police shooting of Charles de Menezes.

She takes over at a turbulent time: Unsworth’s period at the helm of BBC News has seen a major restructuring involving the loss of hundreds of jobs and a push to increase the broadcaster’s presence outside London.

The corporation also finds itself a battleground in the culture war, with scuffles over the impartiality of its leaders, broadsides from the culture secretary and intense scrutiny of how it covers social issues.

The Times reported in August that ministers had rejected pleas from BBC bosses to increase the license fee in line with inflation – which would produce a real-terms cut to the BBC budget.

Picture: BBC

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