ITV will appoint a chief executive even if Channel 5 chief executive Dawn Airey decides to turn down the job, writes Steve Aston
ITV will appoint a chief executive even if Channel 5 chief executive Dawn Airey decides to turn down the job, writes Steve Aston.

The plan, confirmed by ITV joint managing director Mick Desmond, follows a reorganisation of ITV majority shareholder Granada in the wake of chief executive Steve Morrison's resignation last week. The new Granada structure will see Desmond assume a seat on the company's board and take on a wider role as Granada Broadcasting & Enterprises chief executive.

He will continue to oversee ITV alongside fellow joint managing director Clive Jones, but will relinquish his control once a new ITV figurehead is appointed. 'We're looking to appoint someone to manage ITV. When that happens I'll no longer be based at Network Centre,' he told Broadcast. Jones, who is also Carlton channels chief executive, is rumoured to be considering retirement. The new appointment is likely to be charged with finding a replacement for director of channels David Liddiment if the vacancy is still open.

Granada chairman Charles Allen, who will take a more hands-on approach, has acted quickly to revamp the senior management tier. In addition to promoting Desmond, Granada Content managing director Simon Shaps has been promoted to chief executive of Granada Content.

Sir George Russell, a former chairman of the IBA, the forerunner to the Independent Television Commission, joins the company as non-executive deputy chairman on a part-time basis. Non-executive director Gerry Robinson will retire in February.

The broadcaster hopes that the new structure will allow swifter decision making. 'The key thing is that the company is becoming more focused,' added Desmond.

Airey is being hotly pursued by ITV shareholders but she is said to be wary of the possible interference of Carlton and Granada in her job and where she would end up in any single ITV structure. She is currently on a three-week vacation.

ITC chairman Sir Robin Biggam has written to Granada and Carlton asking for clarification on plans to form a 'virtual partnership' in the run-up to new legislation that will allow them to merge.