The appointment takes Mr Dunn into Rupert Murdoch's expanding media orbit, where he is to run the company's non-US global television interests. Mr Murdoch's News International owns Fox Television in the US, 40 per cent of British broadcaster BSkyB and stakes in broadcasters in Australia, Germany and Asia.
"I am extremely delighted with this position," Mr Dunn said last night. "Television is an exploding worldwide business and I have always wanted to play an important part."
The high-profile position is sweet justice for Mr Dunn, who will be back in head-to-head competition with Greg Dyke, the former head of LWT, whose appointment earlier this year to the chairmanship of Pearson Television precipitated Mr Dunn's resignation from Thames. Pearson, the giant media and information company which owns Thames, had appointed Mr Dyke over Mr Dunn's head.
Mr Dunn is expected to advise BSkyB on its likely bid for a Channel Five licence, said a source close to Mr Murdoch. "It's certainly true that I will be able to offer advice," Mr Dunn said. "My being there may be a significant benefit if they can get Channel Five."
Pearson, along with the media and financial services company MAI and the European broadcaster CLT, is also a bidder and is relying on Mr Dyke to prepare its application for a licence.
The field of bidders became even more crowded yesterday, when Richard Branson's Virgin Group confirmed it was leading a consortium to win the licence. As reported in The Independent earlier this week, Virgin is teaming up with Associated Newsapers and the electronics giant Philips, the leading European television manufacturer and the third largest European cable operator. Mirror Group is leading a fourth consortium.
To date, News International's television interests in Britain have been the primary responsibility of Sam Chisholm, the Australian-born chief executive of BSkyB. Mr Chisholm approached Mr Dunn earlier this year, offering a chance to head a global television venture. "Sam told me he didn't have time to do it all and that they needed someone like me," Mr Dunn said.
"Richard Dunn is an outstanding broadcaster, and he's demonstrated that," Mr Chisholm said last night. "The work that has been done under his leadership is there for all to see."