Channel 4 comms and corporate affairs chief to depart in major restructure

Channel 4 director of communications and corporate affairs James MacLeod will step down after nine years, amid a major reorganisation of comms and other functions at the broadcaster.

MacLeod (pictured) will stay until the summer to help with the reorganisation, announced today, which aims to help deliver Channel 4's Future4 strategy outlined at the end of 2020.

The company is recruiting for MacLeod's successor, who will report to an expanded marketing and viewer experience division led by chief marketing officer Zaid Al Qassab.

Teams led by head of content and programme PR Donna Mathews and head of corporate PR Victoria Gillespie, which currently report to MacLeod, will eventually report to the CMO. Al Qassab's expanded division will also include the new audience integration team, alongside existing marketing, brand, media, continuity and social teams, as well as in-house agencies 4Creative and 4Studio.

The team led by head of policy and corporate affairs Helen Jay will move to report to the strategy and consumer insight division, while the internal comms team led by Kate Connolly will report to Kirstin Furber, director of people.

It's the second major shake-up in Channel 4's comms and corporate affairs function in just over a year. In December 2019, PRWeek reported that the broadcaster was bringing all its comms and corporate affairs activity together in one combined department, led by MacLeod, who was given his current expanded role at that point.

Other changes announced today include combining the public policy and public affairs teams with strategy and consumer insight, reporting to director of strategy and consumer Insight Khalid Hayat. "This reflects the close relationship between delivery of Channel 4’s strategy and the organisation’s public policy, as well as its relationships with key stakeholders," the broadcaster said.

MacLeod has worked at Channel 4 since 2012, joining from ITV, where he was latterly head of press. He previously worked in publicity roles at the BBC.

Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon said: “James has been a tremendously important member of the senior team for several years. He is very much at the heart of all we do at Channel 4 and I’m extremely grateful for his leadership, wise counsel and the absolutely critical role he played last year in our response to the pandemic and the launch of our new Future4 strategy.

“James’ ability to hone complex issues into clarity of message, always mindful of the wider picture, is second to none, and his judgement is always spot-on. He has incredible stamina, intellect and a very deeply held belief in and commitment to all that is great about Channel 4. We will be saying goodbye to someone who has had a hugely positive impact on every single part of the organisation.

“He’ll be leaving comms in great shape, having set up a new internal comms team, which has been central to so much of our staff engagement during the pandemic. As well as delivering a really successful strategy launch, our press and corporate coverage has been excellent under his leadership and an awful lot of great work has been achieved and continues apace by the policy team. He will be much missed when he departs [in the summer] but before then there is plenty to be done and I am personally delighted that James will be with us for a good few months to come.”

MacLeod said: “It’s been a privilege to lead communications for this very special organisation and to have had the opportunity to work on so many amazing projects and with such interesting and creative people over the last nine years, particularly the fabulously talented professionals in our communications and corporate affairs teams. But Channel 4 thrives on constant reinvention and renewal and, having worked with Alex and the exec team to develop and launch the exciting and ambitious new Future4 strategy, it feels like the right time to create space for someone new. I look forward to celebrating Channel 4’s continued success from afar.”

Future4 aims to boost investment in digital transformation and put viewers at the heart of decision-making.

Among the other significant changes announced this afternoon, all editorial decision-making across linear, streaming and social channels will be consolidated under Ian Katz, who becomes chief content officer. This will include acquisitions, which moves from commercial affairs to report to Kiran Nataraja, who is promoted to director of content strategy and planning.

Emma Hardy has been promoted to director of commissioning operations and will focus particularly on optimising Channel 4’s producer and talent strategies.

Channel 4 will also move features commissioning to its Glasgow Creative Hub.

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