Jana Bennett Dies: “Trailblazing” Former BBC TV Boss And History President Was 66

Jana Bennett, the British and U.S. TV powerhouse who ran BBC TV, BBC Worldwide and History, has died aged 66.

Bennett was open about her rare condition glioblastoma multiforme in an interview with London’s Evening Standard in 2019, at which point she revealed she had become a trustee of OurBrainBank, a cancer research app allowing GBM patients to share their symptoms with clinicians.

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BBC Director General Tim Davie said: “Jana Bennett was one of the most talented television producers of her generation and a formidable champion of public service broadcasting. She was a trailblazer who rose to the top of the industry, tirelessly championing upcoming talent, as well as having the foresight to bring together television and digital services. She was a brilliant and gifted colleague and is a big loss to the television industry.”

The powerhouse of British and U.S. TV was born in New York State in 1955 and moved to Britain in 1969, studying at Oxford before winning a place on the BBC News trainee scheme.

She rose up the BBC ranks swiftly, producing various flagship current affairs programs before becoming the first female Head of Science, introducing animal shows for the first time such as Animal Hospital.

Bennett became BBC Director of Production in 1997 and then Director of Programs.

After a swift period as Discovery General Manager, during which she was appointed an OBE, she returned to the BBC to take up the all-powerful Director of Television role in 2002.

During her nine-year tenure overseeing all BBC programming, she was responsible for the launch of hit formats including Top Gear, Strictly Come Dancing and The Apprentice, along with comedies such as Gavin & Stacey and dramas including Cranford.

She steered the early years of BBC iPlayer and was responsible for the corporation’s landmark out-of-London strategy that saw 3,000 roles created in Salford, Greater Manchester.

Bennett became President of BBC Worldwide (now BBC Studios) And Global BBC iPlayer briefly in 2011 before heading back Stateside to take up a role as President of A+E Networks’ The Biography Channel and Lifetime Movie Network. She subsequently oversaw History, spending four years with A+E and steering a period of growth.

A+E Networks President and Chairman Paul Buccieri said: “All of us at A+E Networks deeply mourn the loss of our friend and colleague Jana Bennett. Jana had an extraordinary career in media and her contributions to the A+E Networks family are too enormous to count. She was a groundbreaking, game-changing, generous and beautiful person. She will be terribly missed by all of us, and especially by me. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family at this time.”

Since her diagnosis, she had been a Non-Executive Board Director for Pew Research Center, Senior Advisor for New York media outfit Ozy Media and founded media consultancy JebRoc Media.

She is survived by husband Richard Clemmow and two children.

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