ITN chief executive and editor-in-chief Stewart Purvis has announced he is to retire by the end of the year.
Purvis, 55, said he had reached a stage when he wanted to switch focus and concentrate his time on a number of part-time roles outside television news, including non-executive directorships in the public sector.
He confirmed that he had told ITN that he wanted to go a year ago but that it was crucial to pick the right moment. “After the war was that moment, the coverage went well, we came in on budget and things were looking good,” said Purvis.
He said his job over the past 15 years had been part-journalist and part-businessman. The question now for ITN management was whether his job should be done by one person or split into two.
Over the past five years, Purvis’s job has become more hands-off as the channels have become more self-contained. “The relations between editors and customers have been so close I didn’t have to get involved that much. My role has become that of overviewing output and keeping the customers happy,” said Purvis.
In a memo to staff, he referred to the difficult time at ITN in recent months with the death and loss of colleagues in the war in Iraq. “I am pleased that at last the Ministry of Defence has agreed to put its resources in Basra into an investigation,” he told them.
He was particularly proud of the deal he helped broker with British Pathe, which “helped create the world’s biggest news and history archive business”.
Purvis joined ITN in 1972 as a newsroom producer and went on to become an award-winning journalist and producer. He took charge of Channel 4 News in 1983. Purvis became editor-in-chief of ITN in 1991 and was made chief executive in 1995. Under his leadership ITN fought off a series of bids by Sky News to wrest away its core contracts with ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and IRN.
By Paul Donovan