BBC4 man expected to be new BBC2 boss

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The Independent Online

The new controller of BBC2 will be announced this morning, with Roly Keating, the man now in charge of the digital channel BBC4, the favourite for the post.

Mr Keating has been the frontrunner to take over from Jane Root since she announced she was leaving the BBC to take up a new job at the head of the Discovery Channel in the US. Others in line for the controllership include the BBC entertainment chief, Wayne Garvie, the creative director of Talkback Thames Daisy Goodwin, BBC3 controller Stuart Murphy, the BBC's controller of current affairs, Stuart Murphy, and the head of TV news, Roger Mosey.

Second interviews took place this week, overseen by the director of television, Jana Bennett. BBC insiders said the field was unusually strong.

As controller of the highbrow arts channel BBC4, Mr Keating won critical acclaim for series that have transferred to BBC2, including The Alan Clark Diaries and a series on the National Trust.

After joining the BBC as a trainee in 1983, Mr Keating was founder producer and subsequently editor of the influential arts and media magazine The Late Show. In 1997 he became head of programming for UKTV and in 1999 he was made BBC controller of digital channels, with overall editorial responsibility for BBC Choice, BBC Knowledge and BBC Prime, as well as the UKTV portfolio.

In 1998 he took on the additional role of head of arts commissioning, with responsibility for music and arts programming across BBC Television. He was appointed Controller of BBC4 in December 2001, and led the launch of the channel in March 2002. Under his leadership, the average weekly reach for the first 11 weeks of 2004 was 8.5 per cent or 2.5 million, an increase of 55 per cent compared with the same period in 2003. Share was 0.44 per cent, an increase of 69 per cent on the same period last year, ahead of competitors such as UK Horizons and the History channel, and on a par with Discovery.

If he does get the job, he is expected to continue in Ms Root's footsteps by moving away from makeover shows. In the BBC's recent statement of policy, BBC2 focused on its current affairs output including the futuristic docudrama If, as well as promising to extend Newsnight.