Sir Peter Bazalgette appointed Arts Council chairman

Sir Peter Bazalgette Sir Peter Bazalgette will take up the role in February next year

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TV executive Sir Peter Bazalgette has been appointed chairman of the Arts Council England, the Department of Culture has said.

His Endemol production company is behind high-profile hits including Big Brother and Deal Or No Deal.

Sir Peter is also chair of English National Opera and president of the Royal Television Society and served as a non-executive director of Channel 4.

He will succeed Dame Liz Forgan, whose four-year tenure ends on 31 January.

The appointment, approved by Prime Minister David Cameron, was one of the last decisions taken by outgoing Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has become health secretary in the government reshuffle.

'Amazing work'

Sir Peter is also currently a non-executive director on the board of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

He will serve a four-year term at the Arts Council, on an annual salary of £40,000, working up to two days per week.

The government-backed council promotes and funds almost 700 arts bodies across England and, as part of its remit, is involved in investing National Lottery money.

Peter Bazalgette's passion for new media, his entrepreneurial spirit and infectious, can-do enthusiasm are the attributes the government hopes he will bring to the role of Chair at Arts Council England.

He joins the organisation - and arts in general - at a time of flux, trepidation and uncertainty as the budget cuts that were announced last year start to be implemented.

His relationship with the new Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, and a need to give greater support to the regions, are likely to be somewhere near the top of his in-tray.

Between 2011 and 2015, it will invest £1.4 billion of public money and an estimated £1 billion from the National Lottery in a range of projects, from performing arts to museum exhibitions.

Similar bodies take on the role in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

One of Sir Peter's biggest challenges will be deciding how the council distributes money after 2015.

The Government has told the body to cut 15 per cent from its grants, leaving it with just under £1 billion to distribute. The organisation will also be expected to make 50 per cent cuts to its administrative budget.

Sir Peter said: "Sustaining our vigorous arts and cultural sector is admittedly a challenge but one I greatly look forward to."

Arts Council England chief executive Alan Davey said: "This is an excellent appointment.

"Peter is a great philanthropic contributor to the arts; an enthusiast who has done amazing work with English National Opera and has helped the Arts Council over the years to develop our digital thinking. We look forward to working with him."

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