Willis appointed director at the BBC

John Willis, the former Channel 4 director of programmes and documentary maker, has been appointed the BBC’s new director of factual and learning.

Willis joins the BBC executive committee in June, reporting directly to director general Greg Dyke.

He will run a division of more than 2,000 people working across television, radio and online in Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Milton Keynes and London.

Although a veteran of documentary television, with high-level experience of public service broadcasting, this is Willis’s first appointment at the BBC.

The role will bring Willis back to the UK after a spell in the US, where he is vice-president in charge of national programming at WGBH in Boston.

Willis said the chance to join the BBC was “enticing”. “It has a worldwide reputation and I’m looking forward to joining Greg and the executive committee. I have enjoyed a remarkable time at WGBH at the heart of US public broadcasting,” he said.

At the BBC, Willis will be taking up a post most recently held jointly by Glenwyn Benson and Michael Stevenson. Benson became the BBC’s first controller of factual television in February, but will continue as director until Willis arrives.

Stevenson resigned from the BBC in January, following an internal inquiry into the BBC Digital Curriculum project, whose application to the Government he had led.

He was found by the inquiry to have had discussions with a potential distribution partner that were deemed “impermissible in the light of ongoing legal proceedings concerning the basis of the BBC’s application prior to the Secretary of State’s decision”, the BBC ruled at the time.

By Wale Azeez

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