John Birt, Baron Birt
The Lord Birt
|Member of the House of Lords|
|Assumed office |
11 February 2000
|Director-General of the BBC|
|Preceded by||Michael Checkland|
|Succeeded by||Greg Dyke|
|Born||10 December 1944|
|Spouse(s)||(1) Jane Lake;|
|Education||St Mary's College, Crosby|
|Alma mater||St Catherine's College, Oxford|
After a successful career in commercial television, initially at Granada Television and later at London Weekend Television, Birt was appointed Deputy Director-General of the BBC in 1987 for his expertise in current affairs. The forced departure of Director-General Alasdair Milne after pressure from the Thatcher government required someone near the top, preferably from outside the BBC, with editorial and production experience (Milne had been summarily replaced by Michael Checkland, an accountant).
During his tenure as Director-General, Birt restructured the BBC, in the face of much internal opposition. However, others have credited him with saving the corporation from possible government privatisation, and say he prepared for the era of digital broadcasting. After leaving the BBC, Birt was Strategic Advisor to Prime Minister Tony Blair from 2001 to 2005. He was appointed Chairman of CPA Global in 2015.