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BBC World Service appoints Francesca Unsworth as director

MUMBAI: The BBC World Service Group has appointed Francesca Unsworth as director, replacing Peter Horrocks, who announced earlier this year his decision to leave the BBC.

Unsworth will become the first female director in the 82-year history of the World Service. She will take on her new mantle on 8 December. Her appointment follows a competitive recruitment process.

In her new role, Unsworth will lead the BBC’s global news services including BBC World Service, BBC World News and BBC.com/news as well as BBC Monitoring, and will chair the BBC’s international development charity, BBC Media Action.

BBC director general Tony Hall said, “I have known Fran since she joined the BBC and watched in admiration as her career developed. Her range of skills and experience, combined with a quite exceptional gift for management, makes her exactly the right person to take over the enormously important job of directing the World Service Group. I am thrilled with her appointment.”

She will also continue to act as deputy to the director of news and current affairs James Harding.

Harding added, “Fran embodies the best of the BBC: she is thoughtful and enabling, tireless and determined, interesting and smart. Fran is already known for her record in fighting for journalistic freedom and free expression. I know she will prove an inspiring and respected director of the World Service, inside the BBC, in Britain and around the world.”

Prior to this role, she was deputy director of BBC News and Current Affairs.

Unsworth said, “Today is the proudest day of my professional life. I do not take on lightly the responsibility of looking after a part of the BBC with such a proud history. I promise to be the guardian of the best of the BBC’s values of independence, impartiality and fairness in our international services, while continuing the successful modernisation of the World Service Group to take our journalism to new audiences worldwide.”

Unsworth began her journalistic career in 1980 in BBC Local Radio joining Radio 1’s Newsbeat. She was a network radio producer in Washington DC and later joined Radio 4’s The World at One and PM.

She was appointed the BBC’s home news editor and then, head of political programmes in 2001. In 2005, she became head of newsgathering, running one of the world’s largest newsgathering operations with bureaus across the world.

Between November 2012 and August 2013, Fran was the BBC’s acting director of news and current affairs.