Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Peter Johnston: £145,000-a-year BBC controller who revamped TV and radio output

Prior to joining BBC NI, Peter Johnston worked in marketing. So he will be only too aware of the damage done to the broadcaster’s reputation in recent days.

Originally from Ballymena, the 47-year-old was appointed as controller of the corporation’s Northern Ireland wing in 2006, becoming the youngest person to hold the position despite a lack of any direct journalistic experience.

He replaced Anna Carragher and has overseen a turbulent few years at the BBC.

A married father-of-two, Mr Johnston was born in 1966 and was educated at Ballymena Academy and Imperial College London, where he completed a Master’s in chemical engineering and management.

After leaving university in 1988 he took up a post in the marketing division of Shell International in London, returning to Northern Ireland three years later where he joined Coopers and Lybrand as a management consultant. His media career began after he provided consultancy support for several of the local ITV franchise bids and an application for a Channel 5 television licence.

By 1994 Mr Johnston left Coopers and Lybrand to join BBC NI, working first in audience research then becoming head of marketing and development three years later.

By 2003 he had been appointed head of broadcasting for BBC NI.

This involved overall commissioning and scheduling of programmes and content for Northern Ireland audiences on television, radio and online.

He is credited with increasing the range of local TV programmes produced for BBC NI, including doubling the number of single documentaries, increasing the variety of music and comedy output and introducing new presenters and formats. Programmes commissioned during this time won nine Royal Television Society awards including both Nations and Regions categories at the awards for three years in a row.

Significant changes made at Radio Ulster also resulted in a raft of Sony Awards.

Leading 650 staff, he has overall editorial and managerial responsibility for BBC NI.

It is a powerful position, and also well rewarded. According to the latest BBC accounts, his salary is £145,000, with a total remuneration of £152,800.

Expenses claims filed during 2011/12 reveal how Mr Johnston also racked up thousands of pounds in flights, rail costs, taxis and Tube fares between Belfast and London.

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