His up-market, even highbrow pedigree underlines the commitment of John Birt, the Director General, to 'distinctive' fare on the BBC's mass market channel, with fewer concessions to popular taste.
He immediately cast doubt on the future of Eldorado, the expensive and none-too-popular soap opera seen as a symbol of the BBC's poor judgment since last year's launch. 'It's failed. It doesn't seem to have done the business. I'm considering what to do about it.'
But he spoke more warmly of the Australian soap Neighbours, adding: 'I want to be part of a BBC that is not elitist but talks to all the people.'
His appointment to the pounds 100,000-a-year job ends a three-month search for a replacement for Jonathan Powell, who joined Carlton Television in December.
The decision was made on Thursday night by a sub-committee of the board of governors.
Mr Yentob has been designated senior programme controller charged with 'developing cross-channel strategy', and will be Mr Wyatt's deputy in editorial matters. The new controller of BBC 2, to be announced in a few weeks, will have less power than Mr Yentob did.
Mr Yentob, who will be 46 next month, joined the BBC as a trainee in 1968 and has worked for it since then. Most of Mr Birt's other senior appointments are from outside the corporation.
From 1969 to 1988 Mr Yentob worked on arts programmes, creating the successful and long-running Arena. He became head of music and arts in 1985, becoming known as 'the thinking woman's Melvyn Bragg'. He ran the department in an informal and accessible way - reflected in his casual dress - and was popular with programme makers.Reuse content