With the BBC poised to announce former Financial Times boss Rona Fairhead as its first ever female chair next week, you may be wondering: Who is she? What does she do? And what does her appointment mean for viewers?
Fifty-three-year-old Fairhead’s appointment as BBC chairman will be rubber stamped next week after she is formally (and publicly) interviewed by the Department of Media and Sport Select Committee in Parliament on 9th September. She will take over the role occupied previously by Lord Patten of Barnes (and Diane Coyle, who has worked as acting chair after he quit in May).
A businesswoman and former chairwoman and chief executive of the Financial Times Group between 2006 and 2013, Fairhead is an ex-management consultant – and a fully qualified pilot whose hobbies also include scuba diving.
A trusted and hugely competent business executive, she left the FT last April and has been fulfilling commitments as a non-executive director of HSBC as well as her work on the board of drinks conglomerate PepsiCo.
Her new job – which comes with a £143,000 pay packet for three or four days full-time work per week – will be to lead the BBC Trust which is effectively the Corporation’s regulator.
The chair and her fellow Trustees are independent from the BBC’s Executive Board, which is led by the BBC’s executive head and editor in chief – the director-general Tony Hall. The principal job of the Trust is to monitor the performance of the executive but also at key moments to represent and act as cheerleader for the BBC.
As well as the BBC3 decision, another key item in Fairhead’s in-tray will be negotiations for the BBC’s royal charter, which sets out the Corporation’s public obligations and is updated every ten years. The current charter runs until the end of 2016.
Led by the chairman, the Trust is made up of 12 Trustees including four National Trustees who each represent England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, respectively, plus an International Trustee who has specific oversight of the BBC’s international public services, including the World Service.
The Trust is advised by four Audience Councils who also advise the Trust on the interests of audiences across the UK.
All Trustees are appointed by the Queen on advice from Government Ministers after an open selection process.
Oh, and one other thing: no word as yet on whether Fairhead will be called BBC chair, chairman, chairwoman or chairperson. The Trust says she will take her own view on this.
Ben has worked as a professional journalist specialising in TV and the arts for nearly twenty years. After a two year stint on local newspapers in the mid 1990s, he spent more than 5 years as the broadcast reporter at the Stage newspaper. Following that he enjoyed staff reporting positions at the Sunday Mirror and the Sunday Times breaking stories and writing features before settling as a full time freelance writing for an array of newspapers and magazines - but mainly for the Guardian, Evening Standard, Broadcast, Independent and the New Statesman where he wrote a column.