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The BBC's Torin Douglas
"It's rare for a British TV executive to get a top job in American television"
 real 28k

Monday, 23 July, 2001, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
Michael Jackson quits Channel 4
Michael Jackson
Jackson has presided over critical and commercial success for Channel 4
The chief executive of Channel 4, Michael Jackson, is leaving to run an American TV company.

In a move that has surprised the industry, he will become president and chief executive officer of the USA Entertainment Group, responsible for film and TV production, and several cable TV channels.

He is the first British TV boss to get a top job in the American industry since Michael Grade, his predecessor at Channel 4.

Mr Jackson was controller of BBC Two and then BBC One, before becoming chief executive of Channel 4 four years ago.

Acclaim

He has made Channel 4 into a more commercial organisation, with hits such as Big Brother, So Graham Norton and Da Ali G Show.

But the channel's programmes have also won critical acclaim, sweeping the board at this year's Bafta Awards, with prizes for Ali G, Graham Norton and the drama Longitude.

Mr Jackson described the station - which he joined in July 1997 - as a "constant source of stimulation".

"I have enjoyed the challenge of balancing the cultural and creative imperatives that drive the channel against its commercial needs," he said.

He added: "I am immensely proud of the channel's creative track record during my time in charge.

"Channel 4 is a unique and wonderful organisation and anyone would relish the challenge of leading it."

Timing

The station has not announced the date of Mr Jackson's departure, but said that an advertisement inviting applications for the post would be placed "shortly".

A spokesman for the station admitted there was likelihood that a new chief executive would not yet be in place when Mr Jackson moved on but said that the timing of the move was still to be decided.

"It's taken everyone by surprise," said the spokesman.

"We didn't have any forewarning of this - and things have been going well here."

During Jackson's tenure Channel 4 the station launched the digital channels Film Four and E4 - and is scheduled to launch the horse racing channel Go Racing early in 2002..

"Driving the new channels forward will be a major priority for Michael Jackson's replacement," said the spokesman.

At the USA Entertainment Group, he will be working for Barry Diller, who helped Rupert Murdoch establish the Fox TV network with shows like The Simpsons.

USA Entertainment Group is part of the giant USA Networks company, run by Mr Diller.

USA Networks owns controlling stakes in Expedia, the online travel company, and Ticketmaster, the world's largest ticketing agency.

It also owns Studios USA, the production company behind Xena: Warrior Princess and the Jerry Springer Show, and the Sci-Fi channel.

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See also:

24 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
BBC's Thompson 'tipped' to replace Jackson
14 May 01 | TV and Radio
Bafta triumph for Channel 4
01 May 01 | Business
Big Brother, Ali G boost C4 revenue
12 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Channel 4 hit by wrestling rap
15 May 00 | Business
Channel 4 float 'scrapped'
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