Tim Davie has been appointed as the new director general of the BBC. The chief executive of BBC Studios and member of the BBC board will take over the top job from Tony Hall at the start of September. The role of director general is effectively chief executive and editor-in-chief. He will become the seventeenth successive white man to serve in that role, established by John Reith almost a century ago in 1922. He faces a daunting task to maintain the funding and relevance of the corporation.
“Tim has a strong track record as the CEO of BBC Studios and is one of the most respected names in the industry,” said Sir David Clementi, the chairman of the BBC Board. “His leadership and experience, both outside the BBC and within, will ensure that we are well placed to meet the opportunities and challenges of the coming years. Tim has an enthusiasm and energy for reform, while holding dear to the core mission of the BBC.”
Tim Davie joined the BBC in 2005 as head of marketing, communications and audiences, after working in marketing at Pepsico, having become a trainee at Procter and Gamble after graduating from Cambridge. During the 1990s he was deputy chairman of the Hammersmith and Fulham conservative party.
He became director of audio and music, previously known as radio, despite never having produced or edited a programme. A popular leader internally, he showed his management potential when he stepped in as acting director general for almost five months, following the resignation of George Entwistle, who survived in the role for only 54 days.
He then became chief executive of BBC Worldwide, following the appointment of Tony Hall as director general, leading the creation of BBC Studios, bringing together the commercial division of the BBC with its in-house production departments. He was awarded a CBE in 2018 for services to international trade.
BBC Studios contributed £243 million to the corporation in the last financial year, on sales of £1.37 billion. That remains marginal compared to the £3.69 billion received from the television licence fee.
Meanwhile, the BBC is competing for attention with much better funded global businesses. Comcast had total revenues of nearly $109 billion in 2019, of which Sky contributed over $19 billion.
At the age of 53, Tim Davie will take over at the BBC at a difficult time, facing threats to its television licence fee funding and struggling to remain relevant to younger audiences. If anything, the BBC has benefitted from lockdown, with an opportunity to bring together a country divided over Brexit. The challenge will be to define a new vision for the BBC as it approaches its centenary.
“This has been a critical time for the UK and these past few months have shown just how much the BBC matters to people,” he said. ““Looking forward, we will need to accelerate change so that we serve all our audiences in this fast-moving world. Much great work has been done, but we will continue to reform, make clear choices and stay relevant.”