Yentob to run BBC's digital revolution

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The Independent Online
Alan Yentob clambered back to the top of television's greasy pole yesterday when he was appointed to lead a newly beefed-up directorate of television at the BBC.

Mr Yentob (right) takes over as director of television from Michael Jackson, who, in the previous round of media musical chairs, last month became chief executive of Channel 4.

Included in Mr Yentob's directorate will be the new digital television services which the broadcaster will launch next year. He will run television with his old partner from BBC1, the BBC's current director of strategy, David Docherty, who has been appointed deputy director of television.

Mr Yentob was widely rumoured to have felt sidelined in last year's reorganisation, that divided the production of programmes from commissioning and broadcasting. He was head of BBC Production, the programme-making division, but found that his power and creativity was was limited to providing what BBC Broadcast wanted.

David Docherty has the distinction of heading the BBC's television output without ever having been a programme-maker. BBC insiders portray Mr Docherty as a protege of the chief executive of the Broadcast division, Will Wyatt, and a disciple of market research and focus groups.

Mr Yentob made his name at the BBC as the innovative producer of BBC 2's Arena arts programme. Yentob once famously got the schedule cleared for three hours so he could air an interview with Orson Welles. His programme on the Ford Cortina started a trend for ironic interpretation of the commonplace.

He was thought to be most successful as controller of BBC2, where he could indulge his arts expertise and allowed shows like the Late Show to dominate.

However, he surprised observers with his abilities at mass entertainment. BBC 1 has held on to and increased its audience share over the last three years, while ITV has been losing out to cable and satellite channels.

When Michael Grade resigned from Channel 4 in January, Yentob was immediately identified as the front-runner. However, the job went to his successor at BBC2, Michael Jackson. Paul McCann