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Last Updated: Monday, 14 February 2005, 13:23 GMT
How Heggessey rose through BBC ranks
Lorraine Heggessey
Heggessey was responsible for shows such as Blue Planet and Spooks
Lorraine Heggessey, who is leaving the BBC for the independent sector, took over as the first female controller of BBC One almost four and a half years ago.

It was widely acknowledged when she came to the role that she "understood popular taste".

She is now leaving the BBC to try her hand at Talkback Thames, which makes The Bill and Pop Idol.

Her career with the BBC began back in 1979 on the BBC's News Trainee scheme, following a stint on local newspapers for the Westminster Press.

And so began a long track record in current affairs and factual programming across the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 as well as the independent sector.

In her early 20s she was a producer on Panorama, before moving onto ITV's former current affairs programme This Week, and Channel 4's Hard News. She also "doorstepped" investigative reporter Roger Cook for an edition of Dispatches.

Strictly Come Dancing
BBC One's Strictly Come Dancing has been a success
Back at the BBC, Heggessey was the founding editor of right-to-reply programme Biteback and secured one of Britain's most notorious criminals Mad Frankie Fraser, as series producer for The Underworld.

Heggessey then took the helm as editor of BBC One's flagship science series QED, as well as launching popular factual programme Animal Hospital which regularly gained an audience share of more than 45%.

Other credits to her name also include landmark science series The Human Body, fronted by Dr Robert Winston, demonstrating her ability to harness popular support for factual programming.

By 1997 she moved on to become head of BBC Children's TV, and oversaw the launch of 17 new titles, including Trading Places, Microsoap and Pig Heart Boy, as well the instigation of Children's Proms in the Park.

Two years later, and Heggessey had changed role again, this time as director of programmes for BBC Production and Deputy Chief Executive, where she was responsible for creating and developing output across all media and genres.

It came as no surprise that Heggessey would hit the ground running as the BBC One controller.

On being appointed Heggessey said: "It's the job I have always wanted and I'm determined to surprise and delight the audience."

She oversaw the implementation and rebranding of the new evening news bulletin from 9pm to 10pm which not only refocused BBC One's schedule but also allowed a revised approach to prime time drama.

Popular drama and entertainment shows underwent a huge boost, alongside the introduction of more factual programming.

Losing touch

Critically acclaimed shows such as Spooks, Blackpool, Blue Planet and Dirty War sprang up alongside classical adaptations including The Canterbury Tales.

While shows likely Strictly Come Dancing managed to outshine popular ITV reality show The X Factor, Heggessey also introduced the likes of new documentary strand One Life which examined serious issues affecting the community.

It has not been an entirely smooth ride, however.

Heggessey was forced to defend BBC One in August 2004 at the Edinburgh festival against claims the channel was losing touch with its audience.

Reality show Fame Academy was axed after just two series and flagship BBC One drama EastEnders, despite extending to four nights a week, is not enjoying the ratings it used to.

A champion of public broadcasting, Heggessey bought a depth and variety of programming to BBC One which was unprecedented in its scope. Only time will tell how that legacy will be remembered by the audience it serves.


SEE ALSO
BBC One chief Heggessey to leave
14 Feb 05 |  Entertainment
EastEnders schedule threat denied
28 Jan 05 |  Entertainment
BBC One controller defends quality
27 Aug 04 |  Entertainment
BBC defends Fame Academy
09 Dec 02 |  Entertainment
BBC One chief quashes critics
13 Sep 01 |  Entertainment

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