BBC loses another 'big hitter' as head of sport stands down

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The Independent Online

The BBC is to lose a second big hitter to the independent sector with the departure of the director of sport from the corporation.

The BBC is to lose a second big hitter to the independent sector with the departure of the director of sport from the corporation.

Peter Salmon, a former BBC1 controller, is quitting his post at the BBC to head the Television Corporation, the company behind Question Time and Channel 4 cricket and one of the top 10 independent production companies in the UK.

His move follows the departure of Lorraine Heggessey, his successor as controller of BBC1, who announced her departure in February to become chief executive of the leading indie Talkback Thames.

Friends of Mr Salmon said that the BBC executive felt that he had achieved everything he wanted to do at BBC Sport.

One source said: "BBC Sport is in a great place and it is time for him to go on to another adventure."

As director of sport, Mr Salmon is credited with having reinvigorated the BBC's output. When he took over the department in 2000, it was flagging, having lost the Premiership highlights and Formula One racing to ITV and Test match cricket to Channel 4.

By last year, he had restored BBC Sport to its element, masterminding the coverage of the Athens Olympics as well as winning back Match of the Day and the rights to the Rugby Union Six Nations Championship. One blot on the horizon in 2004 was losing the boat race to ITV.

Dave Gordon, head of major events at BBC Sport, and BBC's head of football Niall Sloane are two of the names tipped to take over from Mr Salmon.

Over the past year, Mr Salmon has also been one of the main architects of the BBC's plans to move a significant chunk of production and commissioning capability out of London and to establish a second base for the broadcaster in Manchester.

Sport is one of the departments earmarked for the move, which is still in the planning stages. Pat Loughrey, the BBC's director of nations and regions, who worked alongside Mr Salmon on the project, will now take on responsibility for the move.

During Mr Salmon's tenure as controller of BBC1, the channel came in for criticism for relying too heavily on makeover shows such as Changing Rooms and Ground Force, which have now been dropped. It was widely acknowledged at the time, however, that the channel was suffering from under-funding. In spite of these difficulties, Mr Salmon enjoyed successes such as Walking With Dinosaurs and the drama series Clocking Off.

Brain drain

Lorraine Heggessey

Mr Salmon's successor at BBC1 announced in February that she was quitting to head Talkback Thames, which makes shows such as Da Ali G Show and The Bill.

Carolyn Fairburn

One of the main architects of Freeview, Ms Fairburn quit as director of BBC Strategy in October 2004 to go travelling.

Mal Young

The BBC controller in charge of Eastenders, Holby City and Casualty quit in September to join Simon Fuller's 19 TV, the company behind Pop Idol.

Andy Duncan

The former BBC marketing chief left in July 2004 to become chief executive of Channel 4.

Jane Root

The BBC2 controller said in March 2004 that she was leaving to become head of Discovery Networks.

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