NBC hires news division chief from Britain

NBC hires Deborah Turness of Britain's ITV as news division president; 1st woman to hold job

This undated image released by NBC shows newly named President of NBC News, Deborah Turness. She will be based at the NBC News headquarters in New York and begin her new role on August 5. (AP Photo/NBC)

NEW YORK (AP) -- NBC went out of the company and out of the country to find a president for its news division, on Monday naming the first woman to hold the top job.

Deborah Turness, former editor of ITV News in Britain, replaces Steve Capus, who resigned earlier this year, and will begin her new job in August.

Turness will take over a news division bruised by the "Today" show losing its long-held dominant position in the morning to ABC's "Good Morning America." NBC's flagship "Nightly News" broadcast still tops the evening news ratings, but anchor Brian Williams recently saw his "Rock Center" newsmagazine abruptly canceled after less than two years on the air.

"It is quite simply the greatest imaginable honor to be named as the next president of NBC News," Turness said.

In NBC's new management structure, she reports to Pat Fili-Krushel, head of the NBC Universal News Group, as do MSNBC President Phil Griffin and CNBC President Mark Hoffman.

Fili-Krushel was not immediately available for comment. She said in a statement that Turness is "very familiar" with NBC News through a partnership the two networks have.

Turness, who is 46, became editor of ITV News in 2004, the first woman and youngest person to hold that job. Often overshadowed by the state-funded BBC, ITV is Britain's largest commercial television network. ITN, which is 40 percent owned by ITV, is Britain's top commercial news producer. Turness joined the company in 1988 as a news producer and worked for four years during the 1990s in the company's Washington bureau.

"Deborah epitomizes everything that is best about ITN, inspiring our newsrooms with her ideas, enthusiasm and energy," said John Hardie, CEO of ITN. As editor of ITV News, Turness was in charge of news coverage and business operations.

The morning will no doubt be her top priority upon joining NBC. The decline of "Today" is a major blow to the company's pride and bottom line. Women dominate the show's viewership and the ham-fisted replacement of anchor Ann Curry with Savannah Guthrie last year tore at the show's popularity. It has not gone unnoticed that men supervised the show during its turnover.

Within the next two years, Turness will likely be responsible for choosing Matt Lauer's successor on "Today" should the long-running anchor decide to leave.

"Nightly News" still has a comfortable lead in evening news ratings over ABC and CBS. But Turness will probably face lingering morale issues related to the cancellation of "Rock Center" after being bounced around the network's prime-time schedule.


Associated Press writer Raphael Satter in London contributed to this report.