New BBC1 controller named

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The Independent Online

Peter Fincham, the outgoing chief executive officer of Talkback Thames, was today announced as the new controller of BBC1.

Peter Fincham, the outgoing chief executive officer of Talkback Thames, was today announced as the new controller of BBC1.

He replaces Lorraine Heggessey in the post, one of the biggest in broadcasting.

Mr Fincham said: "The BBC is going through big changes, but BBC1 remains its flagship channel and reinterpreting and reinvigorating it for new audiences is about as exciting a challenge as it gets."

Mr Fincham is a surprise name for the post and his appointment will be a job swap, with Ms Heggessey going to Talkback Thames.

Mr Fincham said: "I grew up watching BBC1 and the first programmes I made as an independent producer were for BBC1, so it's enormously flattering to be asked to take over as channel controller from Lorraine Heggessey.

"I am used to being responsible for a wide range of programmes and BBC1 stands for range, quality and integrity. It also has a unique breadth of appeal."

Talkback Thames is responsible for shows such as Da Ali G Show, I'm Alan Partridge, The Bill and Pop Idol.

The independent production company has made various programmes for the BBC including They Think It's All Over, Never Mind The Buzzcocks and the Bafta-award winning drama The Lost Prince.

Mr Fincham's appointment will raise eyebrows because he has never worked for the BBC before.

He said: "I once applied for a job as a researcher on The Late, Late Breakfast Show and was turned down, so it's taken me 20 years to get a job at the BBC - but what a job!"

Mr Fincham's name had been rarely mentioned in connection with the BBC1 job and his appointment has surprised many.

The BBC's head of daytime, Alison Sharman, and head of entertainment commissioning Jane Lush were considered the frontrunners.

Former BBC2 controller Jane Root and UKTV boss John Keeling had also been linked with the job.

But announcing his appointment, BBC director of television Jana Bennett said: "If there are maybe 10 people who have shaped television over the last decade, Peter is one of them.

"He has a formidable track record in delivering original and outstanding programmes across a range of modern public service genres, and the knack of making them appeal to broad audiences."

With Talkback Thames shows such as Jamie's Kitchen, X Factor and The Lost Prince on his CV, Mr Fincham has been involved in "some of the most respected and acclaimed programming of recent times", she said.

"Peter has run an incredibly successful business but has done it along highly creative lines, and he has a strong grasp of the importance of creativity in the competitive environment of broadcasting.

"He is known as someone who attracts the best talent, supports the best ideas and then backs them with a tenacious passion.

"I am looking forward to welcoming him as part of BBC Television."

At a press conference to announce his appointment, Mr Fincham was asked whether he would chase ratings.

He said: "I certainly want to chase success. BBC1 needs to be a successful channel.

"I think the way that we define success, maybe that has changed a bit.

"I think that we are moving into an era where we probably have a more sophisticated way of looking at success than looking over our shoulders at rivals then comparing our ratings on a daily basis."

He described BBC1 as "an important part of the BBC and our national life".

He added: "I'm of that generation that is old enough to remember a world when there was only the BBC to watch and in our house BBC was the default setting. I grew up with BBC1 and cowered behind the sofa when Dr Who was on."

It was great that his name was being announced just a few days before the Time Lord returns to the small screen, he added.

BBC1 still had a huge role to play despite the rise of a multitude of digital channels, he said: "I don't think BBC1 gets less relevant and important. I think it gets more so. The main terrestrial channels that offer a full and varied menu of programmes become the rarer beast."

Mr Fincham said he left Talkback Thames because he was looking for "a new challenge and new adventure".

He added: "That explains why I'm here. I can't think of a bigger challenge than taking over as controller of BBC1 or a bigger adventure."