The man behind the Girlies waves goodbye to Channel 4

'The Girlie Show': Criticised by Channel 4's newly appointed chief executive, Michael Jackson

The man who put Ladettes and a beskirted Jean Paul Gaultier on our screens has left Channel 4 ahead of the arrival of a new boss who has criticised his shows.

David Stevenson, the man behind Channel 4's controversial Girlie Show and Eurotrash, has departed the channel in advance of the arrival of the new chief executive, Michael Jackson.

Mr Stevenson, Channel 4's commissioning editor for entertainment and youth, is leaving to set up his own independent production company. His first production will be an "edgy entertainment show" for Channel 4.

Since joining the channel in 1994, Mr Stevenson's youth-orientated programmes have provoked outrage in the not-so-youthful Daily Mail.

A Channel 4 spokesman denied Mr Stevenson was leaving because of Mr Jackson's appointment and said the decision had been made before the new chief executive's appointment was announced.

Mr Jackson argued in a speech last year that there had been a "sapping of originality" at Channel 4 as a result of a "pursuit of demographics - in particular, young, lager-drinking, upwardly-mobile men". He pointed to The Girlie Show as an example of "putting packaging before programming, treating the audience simply as categories of consumers".

Channel 4 was at pains yesterday to point out that Mr Jackson had gone out of his way to praise Eurotrash when he spoke to the press last week.

However, a Channel 4 insider confirmed that a third series of the Girlie Show was unlikely to be commissioned, although no decision will be made until after Mr Jackson takes over from Michael Grade next month.

Industry sources believe that Mr Jackson is planning a clear-out of senior Channel 4 executives and the recruitment of his own team from the BBC and the independent production sector. Mike Bolland, a founding controller of Channel 4, now head of arts and entertainment at BBC Scotland, has already calledfor a "selective cull of staff".

Channel 4's director of programmes, John Willis, once Mr Jackson's principal rival for the chief executive's job and who is now rumoured to be considering his future, praised Mr Stevenson yesterday as one of Britain's most innovative programme makers: "David has been a breath of fresh air at the channel and is well liked by his colleagues. He leaves behind a programming legacy that will be difficult to match."

Paul McCann

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