Former Times editor James Harding is BBC's new £340k a year head of news

Four months after being ousted as editor of The Times James Harding has been made head of news for the BBC.

BBC Director-General Tony Hall said: “I am delighted that James will be joining as the new Director of BBC News and Current Affairs. High quality journalism sits right at the heart of the BBC making this is an absolutely critical role.

"James has a very impressive track record as a journalist, editor and manager. I believe he will give BBC News a renewed sense of purpose as it moves away from what has been an undeniably difficult chapter. As an organisation, the BBC will also benefit from his external perspective and experience which he will share as a member of the BBC’s Executive team."

James Harding said: “The BBC's newsroom strives to be the best in the world, trusted for its accuracy, respected for its fairness and admired for the courage of its reporting. I am honoured to be a part of it." 

The appointment follows an open recruitment process, the BBC said. Harding begins his new role in August on a total package off £340,000.

Harding lost his job after five years as editor in December. He resigned saying it had been made clear to him that proprietor Rupert Murdoch wanted to appoint a new editor of The Times.

The independent directors of The Times, who safeguard the independence of the paper under the terms of Murdoch's purchase of it in 1981, refused to endorse Murdoch's decision to make Sunday Times editor John Witherow editor of The Times. But Witherow was made editor anyway on an 'acting' basis.

Previous BBC head of news Helen Boaden was sidelined from her job in November pending the outcome of the Pollard review into the BBC's decision to shelve a Newsnight report revealing child abuse allegations against Jimmy Savile. In February Boaden was made director of BBC radio.

Harding was a popular editor of The Times whose achievement at the paper was recognised last month when it was named newspaper of the year for 2012 at the Society of Editors Press Awards.

In his resignation speech to staff in December, Harding said: "I am proud of the campaigns we have run on family courts, adoption and cycling, as well as the investigations we have done, among other things, into tax avoidance and child sex grooming.

"I believe in our unflinching foreign coverage, driven by as fine a foreign editor as this newspaper has ever had. I bask in the reflected glory of our brilliant columnists.

"Where we have moved the position of the paper – on the deficit, gay marriage, industrial policy, climate change – I hope even the readers who don’t agree with our judgement will respect our thinking.."

The major blots on his copybook as editor were The Times passing up the chance to buy the stolen data which the Telegraph later used to break the MPs' expenses scandal in 2009 and also the paper publishing a story the same year exposing the identity of police blogger Nightjack in 2009 which was obtained by hacking the man's email account and then deceiving a High Court judge to overturn an injunction. 

 

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