Bill Emmott

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Bill Emmott

Bill Emmott (born August 6, 1956) is an English journalist and consultant best known for his period (1993-2006) as Editor-in-Chief of The Economist. He is now a non-executive director of Ofcom, the UK's communications regulator, and chair of Ofcom's Content Board. In April 2016 the Government of Japan awarded him the "Order of the Rising Sun Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon". He has also written 12 books and worked on two documentary feature films, on Italy and the European Union, and co-founded an educational charity, The Wake Up Foundation, dedicated to raising awareness of the dangers facing Western societies and their values through film, debates and school courses, which launched a Wake Up Europe! initiative in October 2015.


Emmott was educated at Latymer Upper School in London and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he attained a First Class Degree in PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics). After graduation, he worked for The Economist newspaper in Brussels, Tokyo and London, becoming editor in March 1993. He resigned on 20 February 2006. During his tenure, The Economist editorialised in favour of the Iraq war, of legalising gay marriage, and of abolishing the British monarchy; and in opposition to Silvio Berlusconi as prime minister of Italy.

He was chairman of the London Library in 2009-15, a trustee of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in 2009-15, group economic adviser for Fleming Family & Partners in 2011-15. He is currently a Visiting Professor at Shujitsu University in Okayama, Japan, a Visiting Fellow at the Blavatnik School of Government in Oxford, and a member of Tokyo University's President's Council. He is also an adviser to Swiss Re. He is especially known for several well-received books about Japan.

Bill Emmott wrote the best-selling book The Sun Also Sets: The Limits to Japan's Economic Power (1989) as well as 20:21 Vision: Twentieth-Century Lessons for the Twenty-First Century (2003), Japanophobia: The Myth of the Invincible Japanese (1993) and Rivals: How the Power Struggle Between China, India and Japan Will Shape our Next Decade (2008). His latest book is about Italy: first published in Italian translation in 2010 under the title Forza, Italia: Come Ripartire dopo Berlusconi, Emmott then updated, revised and expanded it for the English version, Good Italy, Bad Italy, which was published by Yale University Press in 2012.

A documentary feature film co-written and narrated by Emmott, titled "Girlfriend in a Coma", which depicts Italy in a 20-year-long crisis was made during 2012 by Springshot Productions under the direction and co-authorship of Annalisa Piras. It was launched in 2012 and broadcast on the BBC, La7, Sky Italia and other European TV channels in 2013. A new film, directed, produced and written by Annalisa Piras, and with Emmott as executive producer, The Great European Disaster Movie, was co-produced by BBC4 and Arte, and was transmitted in Britain, France, Germany and many other European countries in the spring of 2015: it has now been seen by 2,500,000 people in 12 countries and been translated into 10 languages. Emmott and Piras then in October 2015 made the film freely available for public screenings and debates about the future of the EU as the centrepiece of their foundation's "Wake Up Europe!" initiative. In May 2016, The Great European Disaster Movie was awarded Germany's prestigious CIVIS Media Prize in the category TV-Information.

Emmott writes columns on current affairs for The Financial Times in London, for La Stampa in Italy, for Nikkei Business in Japan and for Project Syndicate worldwide.

Girlfriend in a Coma[edit]

After having written those two versions of the book on Italy, Emmott turned sounding the alarm about Italy’s decline into something of a personal project. He co-wrote and narrated an independent documentary feature film entitled Girlfriend in a Coma, directed and co-written by Annalisa Piras and produced by Springshot Productions in 2012.

It was broadcast on BBC Four, Sky Italia and La7 TV channels early in 2013, and subsequently on other channels worldwide as well as more than 46 independently organised public screenings in Italy and abroad. During the six months following its release, the film was watched by more than one and a half million viewers.

Girlfriend in a Coma depicted Italy’s 20-year-long decline as having moral and political origins, as well as economic ones. It blended his independent outsider’s view with the passion and insider outlook of Annalisa Piras, one of the million-strong diaspora of Italians who left the country during the Berlusconi era.

The Great European Disaster Movie[edit]

Co-produced by BBC4's Storyville and Arte, this documentary feature film used a creative blend of fiction, documentary and graphics to argue that the European Union is sleepwalking towards a potential disaster, rather as European countries did 100 years earlier in the run-up to the first world war. Economic crisis and high levels of public debt left the European family arguing disastrously about money, while the flow of migrants across and around the Mediterranean simultaneously showed European values as wanting, and fuelled the rise of nationalism and populism inside European nations. Structured around five values, each symbolised by an artefact, of economic integration, welfare, the free movement of people, equal rights and democracy, and the preservation of peace, The Great European Disaster Movie presented a highly critical picture of national and EU policy mistakes and neglect, while arguing that it was vital that the European Union be both reformed and saved. The film had, by September 2015, been seen by nearly two million people in broadcasts in Britain, Ireland, France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain and Japan.

The film caused particular controversy when it was broadcast in Britain by the BBC on March 1st. Despite being highly critical of the European Union and its leaders, Eurosceptic critics in the UK sought to depict the film as pro-EU propaganda.

The Wake Up Foundation[edit]

Emmott (as chairman) and Piras (as director) set up the Wake Up Foundation in order to use film, text and data for public education and school courses about the decline of Western countries and what could be done to restore the strengths of liberal democracy in the face of pressures such as demography, technological innovation, globalisation, climate change and the long aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008-10. The first projects of the foundation were a "Wake Up Europe!" initiative in October 2015, a new statistical indicator of the long-term health of western societies, to be called "the Wake Up 2050 Index", and a civic education course for Italian schools derived from "Girlfriend in a Coma".


N.B. Where no author is mentioned, Bill Emmott is the sole author.

  • Pennant-Rea, Rupert; Emmott, Bill, eds. (1983). The Pocket Economist. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. ISBN 0-521-26070-1. 
  • — (1989). The Sun Also Sets: Why Japan Will Not Be Number One. London: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-69696-3. 
  • — (1991). Japan's Global Reach: The Influences, Strategies, and Weaknesses of Japan's Multinational Companies. London: Century. ISBN 0-7126-4928-X. 
  • — (1993). Japanophobia: The Myth of the Invincible Japanese. New York: Times Books. ISBN 0-8129-1907-6. 
  • — (1996). Kanryo no Taizai [The Deadly Sins of Government] (in Japanese). Tranlsated by Chikara Suzuki. Tokyo: Soshisha. ISBN 4-7942-0702-6. 
  • Emmott, Bill; Watanabe, Koji; Wolfowitz, Paul (1997). Managing the International System over the Next Ten Years: Three Essays. New York: Trilateral Commission. ISBN 0-930503-76-7. 
  • — (2003). 20:21 Vision: The Lessons of the 20th Century for the 21st. London: Allen Lane. ISBN 0-7139-9519-X. 
  • — (2005). Changing Times: Leading Perspectives on the Civil Service in the 21st Century and Its Enduring Values. London: Office of the Civil Service Commissioners. ISBN 978-0-7115-0469-1. 
  • — (2006). Shin Ogon Jidai no Nihon [Japan's New Golden Age—of the coming 10 years] (in Japanese). Masahiro Ugaya (trans.). Tokyo: PHP Institute. ISBN 4-569-65639-0. 
  • — (2006). Hiwa Mata Noboru [The Sun Also Rises] (in Japanese). Soshisha. ISBN 978-4-7942-1473-7. 
  • — (2007). Nihon no sentaku [Japan’s Choices] (in Japanese). Kodansha International. 
  • — (2008). Sekai Choryu no Yomikata [Reading the World's Currents] (in Japanese). PHP Institute. 
  • — (2008). Rivals: How the power struggle between China, India and Japan will shape our next decade. Allen Lane. ISBN 978-1-84614-009-9. 
  • — (2010). Kawaru Sekai, Tachiokureru Nihon [Changing World, Lagging Japan] (in Japanese). PHP Institute. ISBN 4-569-77728-7. 
  • — (2010). Forza, Italia. Rizzoli. ISBN 9788817044929. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Rupert Pennant-Rea
Editor of The Economist
Succeeded by
John Micklethwait