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C4’s Jay Hunt to step down

Jay Hunt will leave the role of chief creative officer at Channel 4 at the end of September after almost seven years at the UK public broadcaster.

Jay Hunt

The move throws the search for the channel’s new CEO into uncertainty, following David Abraham’s decision to quit in March. Hunt’s exit from C4 was confirmed by the channel this morning.

Hunt’s departure was reportedly prompted by her concerns about a Conservative Party pledge to move the broadcaster out of London to Birmingham as part of a move to decentralise public sector jobs.

A decision on the new CEO had been expected to be taken next week, with Hunt leading a pack that also included the net’s head of advertising Jonathan Allan; Rob Woodward, CEO of Scottish broadcaster STV; and former Shine CEO Alex Mahon.

However, news that the Conservatives had included their plan to move the channel out of London in their election manifesto broke during the final interviews and Hunt pulled out of the running. She has now decided to leave the broadcaster.

“I will continue in post until the end of September and am looking forward to Channel 4 delivering not just an exciting summer of sport but the richest autumn schedule we’ve ever had with big shows from the Great British Bake Off to Electric Dreams. It’ll be business as usual until October,” said Hunt today.

“Channel 4 is a unique and special place. I’ve really enjoyed leading this phase of its creative renewal and I’ll be cheering the new leadership team on from afar.”

Since joining C4 in January 2011, Jay has led the post-Big Brother creative renewal of the broadcaster’s programming output, culminating in poaching The Great British Bake Off from the BBC in a controversial £75m (US$96.4m) deal last year.

Channel 4 has faced much uncertainty since John Whittingdale, former Tory culture secretary, suggested privatising the publicly owned company in 2015. Under prime minister Theresa May and Whittingdale’s successor Karen Bradley, that plan has since evolved into moving it out of London.

Hunt, however, has been against the move, last year saying: “The hiatus that moving would cause in what we do may not be hugely advisable. I think our [programme] suppliers would rather have the money.”

One of Hunt’s first commissions at C4 was the dystopia drama anthology Black Mirror, from Charlie Brooker. However, after C4 built that show’s brand and popularity, Brooker took it to Netflix, something that Hunt has been quite outspoken about.

Regarding Hunt’s exit, Abraham today said: “Jay took on one of the biggest challenges in broadcasting back in 2011 and through immense creativity, courage and determination has delivered magnificently. In recent years the delivery of our remit and our creative output has reached new heights.”

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