Alan Yentob

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Alan Yentob
Alan Yentob and Grayson Perry.jpg
Alan Yentob (left) and Grayson Perry at private view of Gilbert & George retrospective, Tate Modern
Born (1947-03-11) 11 March 1947 (age 68)
London, England, United Kingdom
Occupation Television executive & broadcaster
Spouse(s) Philippa Walker

Alan Yentob (born 11 March 1947) is a British television executive and presenter. He has spent his entire career at the BBC.

Early life[edit]

Alan Yentob was born into an Iraqi Jewish family in London. Soon after he was born, his family moved to Manchester where his father ran a textile business, Dewhurst Dent, in which he still owns a 10% share.[1] He grew up in Didsbury, a suburb of Manchester, and returned to London with his family when he was 12 to live in a flat on Park Lane.[2] He was a boarder at the independent The King's School in Ely, Cambridgeshire. He passed his A Levels and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and spent a year at Grenoble University. He went on to study Law at Leeds University, where he got involved in student drama. He graduated with a lower second class degree (2:2) in 1967.[3]


He joined the BBC as a trainee in the BBC World Service in 1968 as its only non-Oxbridge graduate of that year. Nine months later he moved into TV to become an assistant director on arts programmes.[3]

In 1973, he became a producer and director, working on the high-profile documentary series Omnibus, for which, in 1975, he made a famous film called Cracked Actor about the musician David Bowie. In 1975, he helped initiate another famous BBC documentary series, Arena, of which he was to remain the editor until 1985. The series still returns for semi-regular editions as of 2014.

He left Arena to become the BBC's Head of Music and Arts, a position he occupied until 1987, when he was promoted to Controller of BBC Two, one of the youngest channel controllers in the BBC's history. Under Yentob's five-year stewardship BBC Two was re-vitalised and he introduced many innovations in programming such as The Late Show, Have I Got News for You, Absolutely Fabulous and Wallace and Gromit's The Wrong Trousers. As Controller of BBC Two, Yentob also ensured repeats of old episodes of Doctor Who and had involvement with early attempts at reviving the series, ultimately leading to the 1996 movie of the same name.

In 1993 he was promoted to Controller of BBC One, responsible for the output of the BBC's premier channel.[3] His time here was seen as another success and he remained in the post for three years until 1996, when he was promoted again to become BBC Television's overall Director of Programmes.

This appointment was only a brief one, however, before a re-organisation of the BBC's Executive Committee led to the creation of a new post, filled by Yentob, of Director of Drama, Entertainment and Children's. This placed Yentob in overall supervision of the BBC's output in these three genres across all media – radio, television and Internet. He occupied this post until June 2004, when new BBC Director-General Mark Thompson re-organised the BBC's executive committee and promoted Yentob to the new post of BBC Creative Director, responsible for overseeing BBC creative output across television, radio and interactive services.

In the 2000s, he has also begun fronting BBC programmes as a presenter. These have included a series on the life of Leonardo da Vinci and a new regular arts series, Imagine.

One episode of Imagine has Yentob explore the World Wide Web, blogging, user-created content, and even the use of Wikipedia, exploring people's motives and satisfaction that can be had from sharing information on such a large scale. His own blog, created during the making of the episode, was subsequently deleted and purged. In 2007, Yentob appeared as the 'host' of the satirical Imagine a Mildly Amusing Panel Show, a spoof Imagine... episode focused on the comedy panel game Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

Yentob's reputation was affected when it was revealed that his participation in some of the interviews for Imagine had been faked. Yentob has been warned not to do this again, but otherwise not disciplined, much to the disgruntlement of some who have seen more junior staff lose their jobs for lesser misdemeanours.[4]

In 2005, Yentob was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters from De Montfort University, Leicester.

In July 2009 he was revealed to have accumulated a pension worth £6.3m, giving an annual retirement income of £216,667 for the rest of his life. This is one of the biggest pensions in the public sector.[5] He has been on the Board of Trustees of the Architecture Foundation.

On 16 March 2010, Yentob and Nigella Lawson opened the new Jewish Museum London in Camden Town.[6]

He is involved with several charities including being Chairman and Trustee of Kids Company[7] and patron of the Shakespeare Schools Festival, a charity that enables school children across the UK to perform Shakespeare in professional theatres.[8]

He is referred to by the nickname Botney (Yentob spelled backwards) by the magazine Private Eye.[9]


Yentob is married to Philippa Walker, a television producer.[10] He has two children, Isabella and Jacob.[11]


  1. ^ BBC Declaration of personal interests (PDF) 
  2. ^ David Lister (29 May 1999). "Profile: Alan Yentob: The insider's extrovert". Independent (London). Retrieved 22 December 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c Hunter Davies (9 March 1993). "He's in control: Alan Yentob decides what you will see on both BBC channels. He is far from a Corporation man, but then he's only been there for 26 years". Independent (London). Retrieved 22 December 2011. 
  4. ^ Hamilton, Fiona; Coates, Sam; Savage, Michael. "BBC row as Alan Yentob is let off for fakery – Times Online". The Times (London). 
  5. ^ Hamilton, Fiona; Coates, Sam; Savage, Michael. "Licence payers fund BBC chief's £8m pension". The Times (London). Archived from the original on 2011-05-10. Retrieved 3 August 2013. 
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "The Alan Yentob Experience". 15 November 2004. Archived from the original on 2009-08-10. Retrieved 3 August 2013. 
  10. ^ Hamilton, Fiona; Coates, Sam; Savage, Michael. "BBC chief's son is stabbed by robber at family home – Times Online". The Times (London). 
  11. ^ 15 November 2004 The Alan Yentob Experience, Media, News, The Independent

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Jonathan Powell
Controller of BBC One
Succeeded by
Michael Jackson
Preceded by
Graeme MacDonald
Controller of BBC Two
Succeeded by
Michael Jackson