ITV's new chief gives Allen a vote of confidence

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The Independent Online

Sir Peter Burt, the former chief executive of Bank of Scotland, was yesterday named chairman of ITV.

Sir Peter immediately moved to stem continuing speculation over the position of ITV's chief executive, Charles Allen, who many consider lucky to have survived a shareholder revolt last year. The rebellion claimed the scalp of Michael Green in October, who had been designated to be chairman of ITV, the £6bn broadcasting group formed this year from the merger of Carlton and Granada. Sir Peter said: "I would not have taken this job if I did not think Charles Allen and I could work together and that Charles was not the right man for the job."

There had been speculation, fuelled by comments made last year by Fidelity, the investor that led the shareholder revolt, that the new chairman would investigate whether Mr Allen should run the company.

Sir Peter made clear that Mr Allen's position was safe and that he expected him to "perform well". The new chairman praised Mr Allen's work in steering the merger of Carlton and Granada through regulators. "He [Mr Allen] deserves a huge amount of credit for the creation of ITV," Sir Peter said.

When questioned on his television-watching habits, the famously cerebral Sir Peter confessed that he was not an avid viewer. He said the working hours required of him in his career had limited the amount of time he spent watching TV. Even now, he said he tended to only watch "news and sport", although he did watchan episode of ITV's recent hit, I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!

Sir Peter said: "Historically I have not had a huge amount of time to watch anything other than news programmes. I was never back in time to watch the soaps."

Although he does not watch ITV's Coronation Street (his mother was a fan), he compared the soap to Dickens.

Sir Peter, 59, was chosen at an ITV board meeting yesterday morning over John Gardiner, the chairman of Tesco. Originally half a dozen candidates had been shortlisted for the fiercely contested job.

ITV contacted institutional shareholders about Sir Peter after the board meeting, before making the news public.

The announcement pointedly said: "Fidelity, ITV's biggest shareholder, welcomed the appointment and the company has consulted widely with other institutions."

Although the ITV chairmanship is part-time and Sir Peter will remain based in Scotland, the post is considered crucial to arguing for the series of regulatory concessions that ITV hopes to win.

Sir Peter said his experience in banking, another highly regulated industry, would be "helpful" to ITV. He was philosophical about the prospect of ITV attracting a bid.

"At the end of the day, if, by making ITV more attractive, we make it more attractive for someone to come along and buy it, then so be it," Sir Peter said.

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