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Mark Byford (born 13 June 1958) is Deputy Director General of the British Broadcasting Corporation and head of BBC Journalism. He chairs the Journalism Board and has overall responsibility for the world’s largest and most trusted news organisation, and its radio, television and interactive content across the UK and around the globe. His responsibilities also include BBC Sport, the Nations (BBC Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and Editorial Policy.

Byford chairs the BBC's Editorial Standards Board, which is responsible for promoting the BBC's standards in ethics and programme-making across the Corporation. He is also chair of the Complaints Management Board, which oversees the handling of complaints across the BBC. In addition, he is the chair of the BBC Academy Board coordinating all its training and development.

He is in overall charge of the BBC's planning for the London 2012 Olympic Games as Chair of the London 2012 Steering Group.

Contents

Early life

Byford was born in Castleford, West Yorkshire. He spent his early years living around the West Riding area of Yorkshire where his father was a policeman. Sir Lawrence Byford went on to become Chief Constable of Lincolnshire, and later, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary. Mark was educated at Lincoln Christ's Hospital Comprehensive School in Lincoln. He returned to West Yorkshire in 1976 studying Law at the University of Leeds. At Leeds, he was president of Devonshire Hall.

Immediately on graduating he joined the BBC in 1979, aged 20, as a “temporary holiday relief assistant” working as a researcher over the summer holiday in his local (Look North) television newsroom in Leeds. After three months vacation work, he joined the BBC full-time.

Career with the BBC

Byford is an award-winning journalist and editor. In 1981, aged just 22, he produced the Royal Television Society’s Regional News programme of the Year – a Look North special on unemployment in the north of England. The following year, in 1982, he produced the award-winning edition again – this time with South Today in Southampton, where he had become assistant news editor. In September 1985, he was a documentary features producer at BBC South, then became News Editor at BBC West in Bristol in May 1987. In October 1988, he became Home News Editor in London, having responsibility for the BBC's television newsgathering across the UK. In 1989 he returned to Yorkshire to become the head of the BBC North region, based in Leeds. In 1991, aged 33, he was appointed Controller Regional Broadcasting.

He joined the BBC’s Board of Management in 1996 as Director, Regional Broadcasting responsible for all the BBC's activities across the UK, outside of London. Byford's management was widely regarded as a failure and the large "top-down" regional directorate was dismantled when in a sideways-move he became Director of the BBC World Service and in a further sideways move became head of the BBC’s multi-media Global News Division in 2002.

In January 2004 he became Deputy Director General of the BBC but within three weeks of his appointment Greg Dyke resigned as Director General, following the publication of the Hutton Report. Byford was appointed by the Board of Governors as Acting Director-General, a role that he undertook for five months. During this period the BBC produced "Building Public Value", the BBC's Charter renewal manifesto. As a result of his unpopularity within the BBC and a general low view amongst politicians he failed to achieve confirmation in post.

When Mark Thompson was appointed Director-General in June 2004, Byford's role was enlarged to take responsibility for all the BBC’s journalism at UK, international and local levels. This was widely regarded as a consolation prize. In July 2006, he also become responsible for BBC Sport.

Byford claims that due his leadership, the BBC's journalism services built audiences to record levels with a weekly reach of more than 80% of the UK population and more than 230 million people worldwide, and won numerous Emmy, BAFTA, Royal Television Society, Sony Radio and Webby internet awards. However, in June 2008 the BBC's governing body, the BBC Trust in a direct critcism of Byford's management, instructed his seniors to improve the range, clarity and precision of its network coverage of the different UK nations and regions, The Trust said the BBC was "falling short of its own high standards" and in part failing to meet its core purpose of helping inform democracy.[1]

As Chair of the BBC's Editorial Standards Board, Byford led the Executive's response to the faked competitions scandals that engulfed the Corporation in 2007 including designing the special training programme "Safeguarding Trust" which more than 17,000 members of staff had to attend. In November 2008, he led the investigation into the Brand/Ross affair and produced the special report that was published subsequently by the BBC Trust. He is a Fellow of The Radio Academy [2].

Byford has been widely derided within and without the BBC. In 2007 the Daily Telegraph commented;

"If pious blatherings mingled with semi-literate evasions can rescue the BBC from its current embarrassments, Mark Byford is the man to provide them"

Personal life

He is married to Hilary (née Bleiker), whom he met whilst at Leeds University where she studied English, and they have five children, two sons and three daughters. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree by the University of Leeds in 2008. He lives in Winchester in Hampshire and in 2006 was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Winchester. His hobbies include family life, sport and rock music. He is a fan of Leeds United and has a well-known reputation for an encyclopaedic knowledge of rock and pop music, especially The Beatles.

References

  1. ^ BBC NEWS | Entertainment | BBC told to improve UK coverage
  2. ^ The Radio Academy "Fellows"

External links

Media offices
Preceded by
Greg Dyke
2000–Jan 2004
Director-General of the BBC (acting)
Jan 2004–June 2004
Succeeded by
Mark Thompson
June 2004—
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