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NBC News looks outside the company and country for a president

April 24, 2013|By Joe Flint
  • Deborah Turness, news editor for Britain's ITV Network, is the latest executive to be mentioned as a possible successor to NBC News President Steve Capus.
Deborah Turness, news editor for Britain's ITV Network, is the latest… (ITV )

NBC's hunt for a new president of its news division has gone beyond not only the company, but the country as well.

The position of NBC News president has been open since last month when Steve Capus departed after almost eight years in the job.

Among the more interesting names to surface as a successor to Capus is Deborah Turness, the news editor for Britain's ITV Network. People close to the search said NBC News Chairman Pat Fili-Krushel is intrigued by Turness.

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Turness is the latest executive to emerge as a potential Capus successor. There were also brief talks with Jon Banner, the former senior executive producer of ABC's "World News Tonight," about taking the post. Banner is now a senior vice president of global strategy and planning for PepsiCo Inc. and told NBC he was happy there, two people with knowledge of the situation said.

Another name that has been discussed inside NBC is CBS News President David Rhodes. However, Rhodes is also under contract and not seen as available.

A rising media star in Britain, Turness in 2004 became the first female editor of an English news division -- which is akin to news president in the U.S. -- when she assumed the top position at ITV News. Before that she held several posts there, in England, Paris and Washington.

Described by the London Evening Standard as a "tough but fair livewire" and by the Guardian as someone "renowned for ripping up the rule book," Turness is credited with keeping ITV News competitive against much bigger rivals, including the BBC.

Turness has also become something of a celebrity herself in London media circles. In 2011, she was the only journalist who attended the 2011 state banquet held for President Obama at Buckingham Palace.

NBC News already has a business relationship with ITV. It shares reporters and resources in Africa and the Middle East.

An NBC News spokeswoman declined to comment on the search. Turness was traveling, and neither she nor her office responded to requests for comment.

Turness is not the only British news executive whose name has come up in relation to the Capus position. TV news watchers outside NBC have also speculated about Sarah Whitehead, who oversees international coverage for Sky News, and Jay Hunt, chief creative officer of Channel 4.

Both Whitehead and Hunt said in emails they are happy in their current positions.

Fili-Krushel, who took over as chairman of NBC News last year, has made no secret to the brass at NBCUniversal that she is looking for an outsider to bring new energy to the news division. 

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times last month, Fili-Krushel said NBC News "needs to be a more innovative culture" and "more nimble." 

To be sure, NBC still has a very formidable news unit. Although its morning show "Today" is in a ratings slump and the subject of constant gossip regarding anchor Matt Lauer, it is still very profitable. "Nightly News With Brian Williams" also remains the No. 1 evening newscast.


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Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.


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