Birt, John, Baron Birt of Liverpool (1944-present), Director General of the BBC

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Birt, John, Baron Birt of Liverpool (1944-present), Director General of the BBC

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10 Dec 1944-present


Lord Birt began his career at Granada Television in 1968, where he worked on World In Action. In 1971, Birt moved to London Weekend Television, becoming controller of Features and Current Affairs. He produced David Frost’s historic interviews with Richard Nixon and Kissinger and launched programmes such as Weekend World, the South Bank Show and Blind Date.

Birt was appointed Deputy Director-General at the BBC in 1987 with a remit to manage News and Current Affairs. He devised, with Michael Checkland (D-G 1987-1992), an internal market system, which encouraged producers to choose between BBC suppliers and the outside market for their facilities. He became Director General in 1992 and became a member of staff rather than a self-employed contractor. Birt restructured and modernised the corporation, imposing a policy of radical reform to deliver efficiency savings. He oversaw the BBC’s involvement with online and digital services and separated broadcasting and commissioning. His reforms and management style were unpopular but he is credited with securing the BBC’s future by negotiating a new charter for the corporation with the British government.

After leaving the BBC, Birt served as an advisor on Criminal Justice, then as an unpaid Strategic Adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair from 2001-2005.

Birt was created a life peer as Baron Birt of Liverpool on 11 February 2000 and on 7th March 2000 took his seat in the House of Lords as a crossbencher.


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