Fincham replaces Shaps in ITV shake-up

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LONDON -- ITV director of television Simon Shaps has resigned and will be replaced by former BBC1 controller Peter Fincham, ITV executive chairman Michael Grade said Thursday.

In his new role, Fincham will assume direct responsibility for ITV1, ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4, reporting to ITV COO John Cresswell. Shaps will work with Fincham for a hand-over period until the spring.

Fincham was recruited by Grade and Shaps as part of a formal succession process that began when Shaps initiated discussions last month with the former BBC1 controller and Talkback Thames CEO. A formal offer was made and agreed to this month, ITV said.

The move follows the disappointing performance of ITV1's much-hailed schedule revamp, with such key 9 p.m. dramas as "Echo Beach/Moving Wallpaper," "The Palace" and "Honest" failing to attract audiences and "News at Ten" losing out to the BBC.

It also comes ahead of Grade unveiling ITV's annual results Wednesday, when he will have to explain lower-than-predicted profits and a share price that has fallen by more than 40% since he took the job.

As part of the same executive restructure announced to the stock markets Thursday, the ITV board said Grade will stay in the post of executive chairman until the end of 2010, a year longer than earlier expected.

ITV content head Dawn Airey and commercial head Rupert Howell also have been appointed to the ITV board.

"Simon told me some time ago that he wanted to do this job for a maximum of three years," Grade said. "He bows out on a high, having delivered ITV's best year-on-year broadcast performance for many years."

Grade said Shaps had made "an inestimable contribution" during a career that has seen him hold the position of director of television since November 2005.

Grade said Fincham was "far and away the strongest candidate" to succeed Shaps.

"It is very unusual to find a ready-made successor for a job as big as this," he said. "Peter's programmaking, commissioning and scheduling experience make him uniquely qualified for the job, and I am deeply impressed by his competitive instincts -- particularly at the BBC."

Fincham, who resigned from BBC1 after an outcry over falsely edited footage of the queen in a BBC documentary, said that the new role would be exciting and challenging.

"I inherit a formidable commissioning team with whom I will be working very closely in the months and years ahead," he said. "I look forward to building on Simon's legacy, and I'm absolutely delighted to be joining Michael Grade's team at such an important juncture."

Five things about Fincham:
-- A comedy creative since his days in the Cambridge University Footlights
-- Nurtured a roster of comic talent including Sacha Baron Cohen and Chris Morris
-- Started Talkback with Griff Rhys Jones and Mel Smith 20 years ago. Sold it to Fremantle in 2000 for $115 million.
-- The queen knows who he is (having resigned the BBC after Queengate).
-- Won't likely commission much from RDF (which edited the Queengate footage).
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