December 1, 2023

NBC News Said to Pick A Woman As Its Chief

NBC News is on the verge of naming Deborah Turness, the head of ITV News in Britain, as its next president, according to several people with knowledge of the appointment.

Ms. Turness, if appointed, would be the first woman to become president of a network television news division in the United States, succeeding Steve Capus, who stepped down from the position in February after nearly eight years.

A spokeswoman for NBC News, a unit of Comcast’s NBCUniversal, declined to comment. In an e-mail message on Friday, Ms. Turness said she could not respond to what she called speculation.

But others with knowledge of the appointment said that her promotion could be announced as early as Monday.

Ms. Turness’s name surfaced last month in a Los Angeles Times article that identified her as a candidate. Though she is not widely known in the television news industry in the United States, Ms. Turness has strong credentials. She has worked at ITN, a British producer of television news, for 25 years. ITN provides three daily newscasts to ITV, a broadcaster that is one of the BBC’s main rivals in Britain, under the banner of ITV News. Ms. Turness has overseen those newscasts as the editor of ITV News since 2004.

When asked about Ms. Turness’s future, a spokeswoman for ITV News said, “We don’t comment on speculation.”

Mr. Capus’s departure was spurred partly by his frustration with a new management structure set up in July, which folded NBC News and two cable news channels, MSNBC and CNBC, into a new unit called the NBCUniversal News Group. The group is led by Pat Fili-Krushel, and Ms. Turness would report to her, according to the people with knowledge of the appointment.

The next president of NBC News will face an array of challenges. NBC has the highest-rated evening newscast (“NBC Nightly News”) and a big source of revenue (the cable news channel MSNBC) that its rivals envy. But it also has a morning show, “Today,” that has sunk to second place behind ABC’s “Good Morning America,” resulting in the loss of tens of millions of dollars in advertising revenue.

More broadly, NBC News faces the same ratings difficulties as other television networks, as well as fresh competition on the Internet.

Ms. Turness is used to competition, given that the BBC usually could outnumber and outspend her at ITV News. She is described by colleagues there as ferociously energetic and savvy about what viewers want to see.

In a 2010 profile in the British newspaper The Guardian, she was quoted as saying: “The battleground now is in news, it’s about quality. News is the best drama on television because it’s real.”

“She was here for at least one presidential election cycle,” said Simon Marks, who worked at ITN in the late 1980s and knew Ms. Turness in Washington in the 1990s. “I think she’ll be a fantastic breath of fresh air in the elite world of network news in New York.”

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