Market Leaders Pick Their Market Leader: Who's the most switched- on television executive?

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The Independent Online
David Elstein

Chief Executive, Channel 5

RICHARD EYRE and David Liddiment, as Chief Executive and Director of Programmes, have performed outstandingly for ITV in the last six months. They steered through the controversial shift of News at Ten, and fired a tremendous salvo of ratings-grabbers to mark the change.

Dawn Airey, enjoying far more meagre resources as Director of Programmes at Channel 5 has repeatedly taken her weekly viewing share above 5%. This achievement is all the more impressive in that her channel enjoys good picture quality in only 60% of UK homes.

Mark Booth continues to defy gravity at BSkyB. Sam Chisolm's successor as Chief Executive was always going to face a tough challenge, but the digital launch has exceeded expectations, and Sky's sports coverage goes from strength to strength.

Graham Creelman

Managing Director, Anglia Television

JOHN BIRT, now perhaps regarded with disfavour and as a problem for the BBC, has my admiration for his truly radical and reforming term as Director General.

Speaking as a former BBC programme-maker, I am hugely fond of the organisation that trained me and set me on the right road in broadcasting. But the pre-Birtian BBC was complacent, inward-looking and didn't think that it needed to be accountable to anyone.

Birt has challenged all the BBC assumptions. He has, with single-minded determination, transformed an introverted and elitist organisation into one that is recognisably a modern broadcasting and production outfit. But the BBC's desire for reform has submerged its own voice. If he can encourage the BBC to find that distinctive voice again, then his contribution will be that much the greater.

Malcolm Wall

Deputy Director of United Broadcasting and Entertainment

IN 9 DAYS, Roger Laughton is retiring as Chief Executive of United and I am taking over. Working out speeches has really brought to mind why Roger Laughton was such a first-class TV executive. I have worked with him since 1992,and in that time we've built up a revenue of pounds 600 million from nothing.

But the particularly admirable quality he possesses is integrity. I wouldn't necessarily call him an in-your-face get-up-and-goer, but he is thoughtful and extremely bright.

Equally impressive is the way in which he has managed to win the respect the viewer. No technology will work without people to watch and pay for it - Roger has always maintained this.

I've also got a very high regard for Greg Dyke at Pearson Television. I worked with him when I was more junior and what really struck me was that he would listen to his subordinates. He might have disagreed but he still listened.

Clive Jones

Chief Executive, Carlton Television

DAVID LIDDIMENT of ITV is a very impressive character. He has done a brilliant job at redesigning the ITV schedule, particularly where thenews bulletins are concerned and with his revival of 9pm dramas. He managed the awesome feat of persuading the ITC to agree to the rescheduling of the news, which has helped put ITV right back on the top of the pile.

I think that entrepreneurial skills are important but a quintessential quality for a successful broadcaster is to have boundless energy, not to mention having the right people working around you. It's an ideas and a people industry and you need the energy to keep forging towards your ideal. You've got to have the business acumen to stay ahead of the game.

Paul Corley

Chief Executive, Border TV

TO BE a success in the television industry, you have to have the ability to think clearly. You need to target your objectives and know your markets inside-out. And you have to be relentless in your drive and motivation. To my mind, the triumvirate that encompasses all these qualities and which has created a powerful, great empire, consists of Charles Allen, Steve Morrisson and Andrea Wonfor of the Granada Media Group. They have clear business sense but also endeavour to keep programme development and creativity high on their agenda.

They have created the most dynamic unit of the big three companies, in terms of programming and in commercial terms. The traditional image of the TV boss is changing: it's important to embrace both the commercial side of the business and the creative side.

Elan Closs Stephens

Chairman, S4C

I PLAYED around with the idea of nominating Elstein or Birt or some other such grand personage, but I really would like to plump for my own chief executive, Huw Jones. I pick him because he comes from a small, independent company but has immense scope.

He will develop a strategy and building blocks so that independent companies aren't necessarily left in a niche position, but can expand and develop. Although we are a relatively small broadcaster, Huw's expertise has meant that we have managed some degree of global success and have even developed the commercial arm of the company to such an extent that we are a major player in Britain.

Huw has foresight, tenacity and drive. It's one thing to have ideas and it's an other to make them concrete. It's important to have a passion for getting things done and for following up completed ideas with new ideas.

Christopher Stoddart

Managing Director, GMTV

THE RECIPE for success in television is a combination of business acumen and programming imagination and innovation. I have to say that I thought Michael Grade was a fantastic executive even though he is somewhat to one side of the business now. He was original and he was a leader. He knew the market and developed Channel 4 according to that market.

Then I should go on to mention those business leaders who are somewhat part of the establishment: there is Michael Green of Carlton, Charles Allan of Granada and Steve Morrisson of of Granada. These are people who have managed to create difficult programmes for populist audiences and in my opinion that is a mighty achievement.

Finally, I'd like to mention David Liddiment who is working absolute wonders at TV Centre. You need a certain amount of courage to put things on in an innovative way, as our industry is so heavily regulated, and you need to be able to show consistency.

Mary McAnally

Managing Director, Meridian Broadcasting Ltd

I'D LIKE to nominate Roger Laughton, who left the cloistered world of the BBC to set up Meridian Broadcasting in the choppy waters of the post- 1990 Broadcasting Act, and helped Clive Hollick to grow the United News and Media business in double-quick time. Roger is a strong commercial player whilst still backing quality programming. He's the director general the BBC never had.

Also Marjorie Scardiano of Pearson for being the first woman to run a FTSE 100 company, and for managing the while to retain the good services of Mr Greg Dyke. And finally Charles Allen of Granada for giving the best business masterclass I have attended, showing a strong grasp of both the catering and media businesses, and impressing mightily by saying that he only has four chief executives reporting to him and has cut down the paper flowing across his desk to a monthly reporting pack.

Steve Morrison

Chief executive, Granada Media Group

THESE DAYS to be a great television executive, you really need to be able to inspire creativity in your programme-makers while also having a mastery of the business world.

The balance has changed over the years. In my lifetime, the impressive people were Sidney Bernstein, Denis Forman and David Plowright of Granada and Jeremy Isaacs, who was the first Chief Executive of Channel 4. But those where the days when commerce was simpler and executives stood out. These days you need a mosaic of talents: you need to be able to champion your creative talent; you need to be able to lead a good integrated team, be decisive and entrepreneurial.

I could mention of Channel 5 who is an impressive man in television but who is very strong on the intellectual side. Then there is Greg Dyke of Pearson, who is quick-witted and enterprising. But these days it is difficult to find perfect marriage of creative ability and commercial acumen.

Alan Yentob

Director, BBC TV

ON THE more creative side, I am very impressed with Tony Garnett who set up the company World Productions. He is the creator of such landmarks in television as Cathy Come Home, This Life and Between the Lines. He is bold and innovative and has been a necessary pioneer of television drama.

On the business side, I think the BBC under Birt has come a long way, dealing effectively with the changes television has undergone in the past 10 years. But also, to progress in this business, you've got to be innovative and brave and I think the independent companies have shown plenty of evidence of this.