Jay Hunt

Jay Hunt, AppleTV+ European creative director, has been confirmed as the next chair of the British Film Institute (BFI).

She will take over from Vue CEO Tim Richards for a four year-term on February 16.

The BFI chair is appointed by the UK government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and ratified by culture secretary Lucy Frazer. 

Australia-born Hunt will be the first female chair since Joan Bakewell, who was in post from 1999-2002, and the first chair to come from a streaming platform.

”The BFI plays such a vital role in supporting great British storytellers and I’m delighted I’ll be chairing the organisation at such an exciting and challenging time,” said Hunt. ”I’m passionate about the quality and range of film and TV we produce in the UK and look forward to championing it on the world stage.”

The BFI board includes Scott Stuber, head of global films at Netflix, Andrew Smith, corporate affairs director at Pinewood Studios, filmmaker Edgar Wright and Number 9 Films’ producer Elizabeth Karlsen.

Previous BFI chairs include Josh Berger, the then head of Warner Bros UK, Ireland and Spain, former BBC director general Greg Dyke, actor and producer Richard Attenborough, The Talented Mr Ripley director Anthony Minghella and Recorded Picture Company producer Jeremy Thomas.

Hunt has previously led the creative output of broadcasters BBC One, Channel 4 and Channel 5, and has been a BFI governor since 2020. She also served on the board of the government’s Culture Recovery Fund, and is the only person to have run three terrestrial broadcast channels in the UK. Her name was in the mix to replace David Abraham as Channel 4 chief executive in 2017, which Alex Mahon landed, and as BBC director-general in 2020, with Tim Davie taking the role. Hunt joined Apple TV+ in 2017, overseeing commissions including Bad SistersTed Lasso and Slow Horses

The time commitment required for BFI chair is two days per month for the unpaid role, with the length of a single term being four years. Richards served for three having already been governor for seven years, and 10 years is the recommended limit to serve on the BFI board.

Hunt will take over at a time when independent film production and the exhibition sector in the UK are facing a multitude of intense and potenitally debilitating challenges, while the TV ad revenue market slump is forcing UK TV broadcasters to tighten their belts.

Calls for interventions or a levy to be placed on the US streamers to help ease the financial pressures facing UK production were raised in recommendations submitted to the UK government’s Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Committee last year, from the likes of trade bodies and unions Producers UK, Bectu, Film Export UK and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.

Culture secretary Frazer said: ”Film is at the heart of the UK’s thriving creative industries, and the BFI plays an important role maximising the potential of our world-leading screen sectors. Jay’s wealth of experience championing British content makes her an exceptional Chair to lead the BFI in the years ahead.”

BFI chief executive Ben Roberts added: “I’m thrilled that Jay has been appointed Chair of the BFI. As a BFI Governor, Jay has been a passionate advocate for both the BFI and the UK film sector. With her incredible breadth of experience in leadership across broadcasting and global streaming, she steps into this role with a very rare combination of an innate understanding of the power and potential of what public service organisations can deliver as well as being acutely commercial. I’m really looking forward to working with her and am confident she will take us boldly into the future, holding us to our commitments in Screen Culture 2033 to transform access to our programmes, screen culture and jobs across the UK.”

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