Media Lifeline: Andy Duncan

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 25 September 2009 12:00AM

The Channel 4 chief executive is set to leave a broadcaster still seeking a solution to its funding shortfall

JULY 2005: The BBC marketing director Andy Duncan is named the chief executive of Channel 4, succeeding Mark Thompson, who had left to become the BBC's director-general. Duncan begins unpicking Thompson's work - not least a proposed merger with Five.

JANUARY 2007: Duncan's regime soon has its critics. Many believe it is outreaching itself as regards its digital expansion (the launch, for instance, of More4 in October 2005); and there's concern that it has lost its way in programming terms with an undue reliance on the low-rent exploitation show Big Brother. This is brought into sharp focus with the Celebrity Big Brother Shilpa Shetty race row - and Duncan's attempts to explain it all away.

July 2007: Duncan propels C4 headlong into what turns out to be a winning bid for the UK's second national DAB multiplex. In October 2008, he concedes that he will have to wind up 4 Digital Group. It had consumed more than £10 million in staff costs alone.

MARCH 2008: As far back as 2005, Duncan had been lobbying the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Ofcom in pursuit of a safety net arrangement to meet future funding shortfalls at C4 - now projected to leap to more than £100 million a year in short order. He's rebuffed but comes back with a formal strategic blueprint restating his case. He announces that he has won the moral argument - and that the Government will be duty-bound to act.

SEPTEMBER 2009: Duncan, who had rejected renewed calls for a C4/Five merger, had expected the Digital Britain report to back one of his two most recent stratagems for future funding - a slice of BBC licence-fee funding or a merger with BBC Worldwide. But the report blocks the first avenue and BBC manoeuvring blocks the second. The perception is that he now has nothing more to offer strategically and that he will be invited to resign. Eventually he does.

FAST FORWARD: February 2010 But it's hard to keep a good man down - and Duncan returns to his FMCG marketing roots as the marketing director of Sunshine Desserts, a new division created by Unilever to house its treat-based (great!), heritage-branded (super!) frozen and instant foodstuff products. On his first day, his train is 22 minutes late, owing to a leopard on the line at Raynes Park.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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