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September 15, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:36am

Ex-Huffpost UK editor Jess Brammar confirmed as BBC executive news editor

By Charlotte Tobitt

Jess Brammar’s BBC job has been confirmed, with the broadcaster stating her appointment was made “through fair and open competition”.

Brammar will join the BBC as executive news editor, news channels despite critics including BBC board member Sir Robbie Gibb and Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the Commons, claiming she had shared “left-wing” views that would undermine the broadcaster’s independence.

In her new role, Brammar will oversee the BBC’s two 24-hour news channels – BBC World News and the BBC News Channel.

Brammar said she “couldn’t be more thrilled to be joining such an incredibly talented team, on and off air. Very much looking forward to cracking on with the job”.

The former Huffpost UK editor-in-chief and BBC Newsnight acting editor will take up the role this month, reporting to senior controller, news output and commissioning Jamie Angus.

The BBC said Brammar is an “award-winning editor with wide-ranging experience in broadcasting” and that her appointment was “made through fair and open competition”.

According to Telegraph arts and entertainment editor Anita Singh, BBC chairman Richard Sharp told the RTS conference Brammar “got there on merit”.

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BBC director-general Tim Davie later told the conference: “I think we’re in dangerous territory if previous political positions, tweets, rule you out from BBC jobs,” according to RTS. “My expectation as a leader for anyone joining the BBC is that you leave your political opinions at the door.”

Paul Danahar. Picture: BBC

The BBC has also appointed Paul Danahar as executive news editor, world story team starting in January. He will report to Jonathan Munro, senior controller, news content.

Danahar is currently BBC Americas bureau chief in Washington DC and was awarded an MBE in 2003 for his work as Baghdad bureau chief during the US-led invasion.

BBC director of news Fran Unsworth, who herself is stepping down at the beginning of next year, said: “I’m delighted to announce these two new appointments.

“Both Jess and Paul are outstanding journalists with proven track records. They’ll bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to their new roles and I look forward to welcoming them.”

The BBC said both roles are part of its news division modernisation plans which include a major restructure including redundancies and a reduced management team.

The board went from 11 to eight people as editorial director Kamal Ahmed, Gavin Allen, head of news output, and Jo Carr, head of current affairs, all saw their roles closed earlier this year.

In January 2020, in plans delayed by the pandemic, BBC News said it would cut up to 450 jobs under the plan to modernise the newsroom by introducing a “story-led” approach with fewer teams from different programmes covering the same stories. The total was later revised to 520.

Brammar’s potential appointment came to light in July when the Financial Times reported that Sir Robbie Gibb, a former communications director for Theresa May who became a non-executive director at the BBC in May, had texted Unsworth in an attempt to block it.

He reportedly claimed it would shatter people’s trust in the corporation but Labour slammed his intervention as a “total abuse of position” and demanded he should be forced to resign.

It was reported that Brammar’s appointment subsequently stalled and took longer than expected to be confirmed. Her social media accounts were combed by other media outlets claiming evidence of a “culture warrior” with “left-wing” credentials because she supported Black Lives Matter and critiqued Brexit.

Rees-Mogg cast doubt on Brammar’s impartiality because of her work at Huffpost, telling the Commons: “It is of crucial importance that the BBC is not only impartial but is seen to be impartial. The BBC must ask itself if it is going to make an appointment from the Huffington Post, would it make an appointment from the Guido Fawkes website? A similar news outlet, except a rather more accurate one on the right rather than the left. I think the BBC would be astonished by my suggestion.”

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