Birt awarded an Emmy

John Birt, the controversial Director General of the BBC, is to receive an Emmy, one of the highest television awards, it was announced yesterday.

Mr Birt, 50, will collect his directorate award for his "outstanding contribution" to international television in New York in November. The prestigious award is seen by his peers as something of a vindication for the man once vilified as a Dalek in an Armani suit and the inventor of "Birt-speak".

He introduced producer choice, which was intended to bring free-market economics to trim the huge BBC bureaucracy. It proved hugely unpopular with employees - particularly the 4,500 who lost their jobs.

His management style and changes were attacked publicly by the playwright the late Dennis Potter, Question Time presenter David Dimbleby and veteran India correspondent Mark Tully.

But in the two years since he took up the post the BBC resources directorate has broken even twice and managed to introduce more original programming. Birt has also gained Government guarantees over income from the licence fee.

The Emmy has been awarded by the international council of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Its executive director, Arthur Kane, said yesterday: "Mr Birt will be cited for his role in re-affirming the importance of public broadcasting while undertaking arduous reforms at the BBC and leading the campaign for the renewal of its charter, thereby ensuring the continuation of the BBC's historical standards of excellence into the next century."

Directorate awards have gone to: Sir Charles Curran (1973), BBC director general from 1969 to 1977; media tycoon Lord Grade (1980); Sir Huw Weldon (1981), former managing director of BBC TV; CNN chief Ted Turner (1989); and Jeremy Isaacs, C4 founder. of Channel 4.