BBC Trust Chair Rona Fairhead to Resign

Rona Fairhead - H 2015
AP Images

Rona Fairhead - H 2015

Fairhead is the first woman to head up the BBC Trust, the U.K. public broadcaster's governing body.

BBC Trust chair Rona Fairhead will resign after new British prime minister Theresa May decided to require her to reapply for the role.

Fairhead on Tuesday evening told the Financial Times that after “much thought” she had decided not to re-enter the process. 

The paper said she will remain chair of the BBC Trust until the body is formally abolished in early 2017 and replaced by a new board. She was originally expected to be confirmed as chair of that new board, but May on Tuesday told her she would have to reapply.

Fairhead is the first woman to head up the BBC Trust, the U.K. public broadcaster's governing body. Some have criticized her, saying she hasn't been standing up for the BBC enough against the government. The government and BBC have been discussing details of a new charter for the broadcaster that will detail its duties and tasks once the current charter ends at the end of the year.

"The prime minister strongly encouraged me to take part in the new appointment process, for what would be a new four-year term as BBC chairman," Fairhead said Tuesday. "However, after much thought I have come to the conclusion that I should not do so. It is my belief that it will be better to have a clean break and for the government to appoint someone new."

On Thursday, new British culture secretary Karen Bradley, part of May's cabinet that came in after David Cameron resigned as prime minister after the Brexit vote, will publish a draft charter for the BBC. The government had in May published a "white paper" detailing planned reforms to the way the broadcaster is organized and run, including oversight by media regulator Ofcom.

"Rona has made a real contribution to the BBC and at a really important time for us," said BBC director general Tony Hall. "On behalf of all the staff, I'd like to thank her for that and wish her the very best for the future. We will continue to work together in the interests of license fee payers until the new governance arrangements are in place."

Fairhead, a former CEO of the Financial Times Group, was appointed to a four-year term as BBC chair in October 2014.