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ITV reclaims Pickard

In something of a head-hunting coup, ITV has poached the boss of Children's BBC to fill the post of director of programmes, a seat soon to be vacated by David Liddiment.

The move marks the return of Nigel Pickard to the ITV Network Centre, which he left in October 2000 after being the commercial network's controller of children's and youth programming for nearly three years.

ITV, currently without a ceo and languishing in the ratings in the face of a cash-rich BBC, will certainly be happy with a TV exec of Pickard's ability and respect among producers. The ITV network had previously set its sights on Dawn Airey, but was wrong-footed last month after she decided to go to BSkyB.

Pickard's lack of experience in anything outside kids' TV may be seen by some as a drawback, what with ITV1's traditional reliance on primetime home-grown drama. However, he will perhaps be able draw on his time at Scottish Television in the early 1990s, when he was controller of entertainment and drama features.

While at CiTV, Pickard turned around ITV1's Saturday morning ratings with shows like SM:TV Live and CD:UK. After going to the BBC, he oversaw all kids content on BBC1 and BBC2, as well as the launch of two digital networks: CBBC and CBeebies.

Prior to his first arrival at ITV Network Centre in January 19998, the 50-year-old saw stints at Flextech, where he ran production at Challenge TV, and before that at Scottish Television, TVS and Southern Television.

Pickard's second defection in as many years will surely trigger yet another round of musical chairs in the top flight of the UK broadcasting industry. This perpetual reshuffle of commissioners has plagued production over the last few years, with long-developed projects being put on hold and new projects steered by one controller being torpoedoed by the new broom.

Recent reshuffles include Dawn Airey's move to BSkyB, most of Channel 4's entertainment team jumping ship to Channel 5, and the post-ITV Digital exodus from the Network Centre.

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