Dawn Airey

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Dawn Elizabeth Airey, (born 15 November 1960, Preston in Lancashire) is senior vice president of Yahoo’s business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, responsible for advertising.[1] She was previously a British commercial television executive, chairman and chief executive of Channel 5, the UK television station now owned by Richard Desmond's Northern and Shell. After its change of ownership in 2010, it was announced Airey would join former owners RTL - she left Channel 5 at the end of October after a handover period.

Early life[edit]

Airey was educated at Girton College, Cambridge where she read Geography. She had attended a local comprehensive, then a boys' private school (Kelly College) which had a mixed sixth form.


Airey joined Central Independent Television in 1985 as a General Trainee under the wing of then director of programmes, Andy Allen. Promotion followed. In 1989 she became Director of Programme Planning at Central and was appointed to the Central broadcasting board. When the ITV Network Centre was established in 1993, she moved to London to become the first Controller of Children's and Daytime Programmes.

In 1994, she became Controller of Arts and Entertainment at Channel 4, chaired by Michael Grade. It was reported in The Sunday Times[2] that her forthright manner had earned her the soubriquets "Scary Airey" and "Zulu Dawn".[3]

Airey joined Channel 5 in 1996, the year before its launch, as its first director of programmes. It was during her tenure that she famously agreed with an interviewer that some might think the channel's core strengths were "films, football and fucking" but added it was about a lot more.[4] She was subsequently appointed as chief executive of the channel in 2000.

In 2002, it was widely touted that ITV plc was hoping to recruit Airey as its chief executive. However she surprised the television industry by instead accepting a position at the satellite broadcaster, BSkyB.[5] There she was responsible for running all Sky channels, except Sky Sports, and was placed in charge of programming and advertising sales. In 2006 she was made Managing Director of Channels and Services whereupon she gained additional responsibility for all third party channels, joint ventures and networked media.

Airey left BSkyB to head up an independent production business backed by private investors however she was only with the company for a total of eight days before it was announced that the venture did not have sufficient cash to continue trading.[6] Soon after, in May 2007, she was reunited with Michael Grade, joining ITV plc as Director of Global Content,[7] running the broadcaster's production and global sales division. But the reunion did not last long.

She earned Grade's enmity when, after eight months in the job, she quit to rejoin Channel 5 in May 2008 as its Chairman and CEO, with a remit to increase profitability and audience share. This she did, but RTL decided to exit UK broadcasting and sold the company to Northern & Shell. After a short handover Airey returned to RTL (Five's previous owners) as President of CLT-UFA.[8] On 11 August 2010 it was announced Airey would leave Channel 5 to take up a senior post with RTL, its former owners, later in 2010.[9]

It was reported on 20 August 2013 that Airey joined Yahoo as senior vice president of EMEA operations.[10]

Personal Life[edit]

Airey is a non-Executive Director of Thomas Cook (2010 - ), Chair of The National Youth Theatre of Great Britain (2011 - ). She is a former non-Executive Director of the airline easyJet. Airey is also a Vice President of The Royal Television Society; a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts and a Governor of The Banff Television Festival.

She lives with her civil partner Jacqueline Lawrence (a former television producer, now Chair of The Elma Trust) and their two children in West London and Oxford.


External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Chief Executive: Five TV
October 2000-April 2003
Succeeded by
Jane Lighting
Preceded by
Jane Lighting
Chief Executive: Five TV
October 2008 - 2010
Succeeded by