James Harding, one of the BBC’s most powerful executives and a man tipped as a future director-general, is leaving the Corporation.
The Director of News and Current Affairs will stand down at the beginning of the new year to “set up his own news media venture” he has confirmed.
Announcing his departure, Harding said, “I am proud to have worked for BBC News as we renewed our reputation for responsible, powerful journalism: agenda-setting coverage of politics, business and the society we live in; current affairs exposing controversial issues with discipline and determination; the best and bravest international reporting, when big moments in history unfold and when underreported stories desperately need to be told.”
Harding, who was appointed on 16th April 2013, added that he was “hugely grateful” to director-general Tony Hall for the role, and wished the BBC well following its challenging charter renewal negotiations.
“I have so enjoyed being part of Tony Hall’s team and I think that, thanks to his leadership, the BBC has not only secured the resources and Charter it needs for the decade to come but is now set on a course to reinvent itself for the future,” he said. “I am hugely grateful to him for having given me the chance to come to the BBC.”
Harding, a former editor of The Times newspaper, explained that he was leaving to establish his own news media company, which he will launch once he leaves the BBC at the beginning of 2018.
“There is some journalism that the BBC, for all its brilliance, can’t, and probably shouldn’t, do. And that’s what I want to explore: I am going to start a new media company with a distinct approach to the news and a clear point of view,” Harding said. “I know I will enjoy the chance to do some more journalism of my own and, at such a critical time, I’m seriously excited about the prospect of building a new venture in news. I look forward to being able to say more about it when we get started in the New Year.”
Harding has long been tipped as a future director-general and was said by insiders to be locked in a long-term battle for the succession from current incumbent Tony Hall whenever he decides to vacate the top job.
Harding’s chief internal rivals are thought to be director of radio James Purnell and BBC worldwide chief executive Tim Davie.
Director-general Hall said, “James has done an incredible job during a hugely complex and momentous period of British and world history. He has led the BBC’s coverage through two referendums, two general elections, an astonishing US Presidential election, not to mention a series of extraordinary events at home and abroad.
“He supervised lasting changes to programmes and services while also appointing a range of new editors, on air and off, including the appointment of the BBC’s first female Political Editor. James has launched slow news and Reality Check to counter fake news. During his time as director, the World Service has started to launch a dozen new language services with the extra money secured from Government. The BBC has revolutionised its digital story-telling, taking the lead in news for mobile devices. These are significant achievements.
“In the years James has been with us he’s played an important part in modernising and changing the BBC, but beyond that, he has been a first-class colleague and a pleasure to work with. We shall miss him and wish him every success with his new venture.”
The BBC said that the process to appoint Harding’s successor will commence shortly.