Media: A moment with Marquis

Our main story: Basil Brush tipped for ITV chief executive role. Mr Brush has been seen leaving the offices of top head-hunter Zygos on two occasions in the past week and is now being spoken of as a front-runner for the role.

Brush (54) would make no comment on the rumours other than to say he would neither rule himself in nor out of the running for the top job in commercial television. Nevertheless, long years in front of the camera are seen by industry pundits as no bad qualification for the job.

"Basil may not know one end of a balance sheet from the other," commented a friend, who preferred not to be named, "but he knows television inside out. He's a programming whiz."

It was not clear as Campaign went to press who had a hand in Brush's candidacy, but he is believed to enjoy widespread support within the company, particularly among the programming team. "I'm not sure anyone else is a patch on Brush when it comes to understanding what the viewer wants," one insider said. "He has a nose for these things."

Brush is seen as a friend of the advertiser too. Other names mentioned in connection with the role - Stephen Carter and Rupert Howell, to name but two - are seasoned ad men, but Brush has been a regular speaker at ISBA conferences and is known to favour a conciliatory attitude to the paying customer. He is, according to some, happy to live with the Contract Rights Renewal mechanism and believes ITV1 can prosper even with the Ofcom- devised strait-jacket in place.

Allegedly, he also has well-worked plans in mind to develop the ITV brand and launch a raft of specialist digital channels if selected for the role. The non-executive directors of ITV are said to be impressed by the creativity of these proposals.

What of his relatively narrow media experience to date? Will this count against him when compared with other high-flying contenders for ITV such as Roger Parry of Johnston Press or Stewart Till of film distributor UIP, or - the big rumour of last week - John Smith, the head of BBC Worldwide?

Retiring ITV CEO, Charles Allen, speaking last week at the Royal Television Society's London conference, alluded to the reasons why ITV is in crisis, citing the strength of the BBC and "our on-screen performance" as reasons for the current state of affairs, but diplomatically made no mention of Brush or any other of the candidates.

In other news, Simon Marquis, Campaign columnist, is reported as having lost the will to live ...


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