Channel 4 appoints Terry Burns chairman

Will lead search for new chief executive

LONDON -- Former government mandarin and chairman of Abbey National Terry Burns has been appointed Channel 4 chairman, it was announced Thursday by media regulator Ofcom.

Burns, who has never run, or worked for, a media company, will replace outgoing chairman Luke Johnson who leaves at the end of the year, taking up the post of chairman designate of the publicly-owned broadcaster with immediate effect.

Burns will face the immediate task of hiring a replacement for outgoing Channel 4 chief executive Andy Duncan and negotiating a slew of commercial deals with partners including BBC Worldwide.

Burns, who was chief economic advisor and permanent secretary to the Treasury in the late nineties, also advised the then culture secretary Tessa Jowell on a review of the BBC's Charter five years ago.

He was chosen ahead of a slew of senior media industry figures thought to have interviewed for the job, including former BBC director general Greg Dyke, former chief executive of the media content regulator Patricial Hodgson, and former ITV and Capital Radio chief executive Richard Eyre.

Ofcom chairwoman Collette Bowe said Burns had "an outstanding record of public service and a real depth of commercial expertise," and would "provide strong leadership at a time of considerable change in the broadcasting world."

However, some industry insiders have been less generous, saying that the job should have gone to a respected figure within the industry who understood its nuances and the challenges posed by digital content.

"It's completely barmy," said one senior broadcasting executive. "It's totally a Whitehall appointment."