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Top BBC Northern Ireland woman quits for London


A well-known senior production executive is leaving BBC Northern Ireland.

Staff were told yesterday that Ailsa Orr, head of programmes, is leaving for a job at the BBC's innovation department in London.

Originally from Donegal, Ms Orr worked for BBC Factual in London from 2003 until she moved to BBC NI in April 2007 to oversee a programme portfolio including drama, factual, entertainment, comedy and event television.

She was also the creative head of BBC NI's in-house television, radio and online departments.

As commissioner, she had a £15m budget to commission regional programmes from in-house and independent suppliers, generating more than 130 hours of television per year, including The Story Of Ireland, The Shankill Butchers, The Estate and 6Degrees. She has been working part-time as head of innovation for the BBC in London since November 2012 and will take up the role full-time from September.

In a memo to staff yesterday, director of BBC NI Peter Johnston said: "I want to pay tribute to Ailsa's creativity and resolve over this significant period of change for television commissioning and production, and for her hard work and commitment to BBC Northern Ireland.

"During this time, local and UK audiences have been treated to some great programmes, landmark series and new formats.

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"We wish her all the very best for the future." Ms Orr is the latest senior female figure to depart Ormeau Avenue.

After 31 years with BBC NI, Angelina Fusco, editor of television news, left last month.

Her departure followed on from weather forecaster Jackie McCann and newsreader Sarah Travers, who both claimed they quit their jobs to spend more time at home.

Ms Travers was quickly signed up by UTV to front its Magazine programme.

After 17 years with BBC NI, sports presenter Denise Watson also quit in recent months, as did Newsline reporter Natasha Sayee, who left the corporation for a PR job at Randox Laboratories.

And in 2012 Yvette Shapiro and Julia Paul were among the household names to leave the BBC as part of an ongoing voluntary redundancy programme.

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