Ex-NBC Exec Turness Named CEO for BBC News, Current Affairs

January 7, 2022Updated: January 7, 2022

LONDON—The BBC announced Thursday that it has appointed Deborah Turness as its new chief executive for news and current affairs, bringing to the broadcaster a vastly experienced journalist who previously held senior leadership positions at the news division of American TV network NBC.

Turness, 54, comes to the BBC from British media company ITN, where she is currently CEO. The native of England will replace Fran Unsworth, who is leaving at the end of January.

“In the U.K. and around the world there has never been a greater need for the BBC’s powerful brand of impartial, trusted journalism,” Turness said in a statement.

“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,” she added.

BBC Director-General Tim Davie said Turness “brings a wealth of experience, insight, first-class editorial judgment and a strong track record of delivery” to her new role.

He called her “a passionate advocate for the power of impartial journalism and a great believer in the BBC and the role we play, in the U.K. and globally.”

When she begins her new new job, Turness will have responsibility for a team of around 6,000 that delivers broadcasts in more than 40 languages to almost half a billion people around the world, the BBC said.

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

The BBC, founded in 1922, is Britain’s publicly funded but editorially independent national broadcaster. The rules governing its operations are set out in a royal charter that requires the corporation to be impartial, act in the public interest and be open, transparent and accountable.

The broadcaster has come under pressure from some members of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party who accuse it of having a liberal bias. It also faced strong criticism last year about its integrity following a scathing report on its explosive 1995 interview with Princess Diana.

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