Jana Bennett: A pioneer who helped shape the BBC | News
A range of contemporaries led the tributes to Jana Bennett, a pioneering influence for women in public service broadcasting and a major figure in the BBC’s modern era.
Bennett, who died earlier this week, was the BBC’s first female chief science officer and editor of the Horizon strand and became its television director for two spells with the company.
She played a crucial role in embracing the digital revolution via the launch of BBC3 and other channels in the early 2000s and was one of the most important figures in the development of specialist factual as a genre truly popular television.
A recurring theme among his peers was Bennett’s skill as a creative leader and manager.
Lorraine Heggessey was her lifelong friend after the pair joined the company as trainees in 1979. The former BBC1 controller said: ‘Jana always encouraged others to be more ambitious in their thinking and never sought glory for herself. Its contributions were often invisible except to the many people who benefited from it.
Among those who worked with and for Bennett were Danny Cohen, Pat Younge and Jane Tranter.
Cohen, whom she hired as controller of BBC1 in 2010, described Bennett as a “really nice, warm person, and a great boss”.
He added: “Jana was an exceptional creator who also knew how to create the right conditions for others to thrive. She fundamentally believed in the BBC and knew she was at her best when creativity came from lots of different people.
Memories of former theater controller Tranter evoked this sentiment: “Jana was the most generous of patrons and a good friend to many. She had a brain the size of a planet but used it to listen, as well as speak. She gave us the space to make mistakes and learn and allowed the BBC to be fun. She is a huge loss.
Broke the glass ceiling
Younge was brought back from the United States by Bennett to head the BBC’s in-house production. He said: “Jana believed in public service broadcasting and the importance of internal. She felt we didn’t get a fair boost and did everything she could to help us up our game.
“She was one of the women of our generation who broke the glass ceiling on television, and she was a big believer in diversity. She knew some of the challenges that I faced as a black man, because she had met similar ones as a woman a few years before, she was kind and funny and left too soon.
Heggessey explained that Bennett had been “a trailblazer for women who tended to be pigeonholed in terms of working in education or children. Jana has proven that women can run big arms departments.”
Bennett was one of five women on the BBC’s management team when she was appointed director of television in 2001 and was a former chairwoman and major supporter of Women in Film & TV. She received the organization’s Contribution to the Medium award in 2012.
The organization’s president, Liz Tucker, said she had been a hugely influential figure: “With charm, wit, sharp intelligence and editorial judgment, Jana has made an immense contribution to the industry. television and will be sorely missed. She was my first TV boss in London when she was Horizon’s first female editor and has always been approachable and caring. Her humanity shone through in everything she did.
Former WFTV General Manager Kate Kinninmont added: “Jana has always pushed to do more for women in the industry and full of sparkle and ideas to make it happen. She should have been the BBC’s first female CEO. Despite his accomplishments, we are still waiting.
Heggessey added that Bennett’s creative credentials shouldn’t be overlooked. She highlighted his groundbreaking decision to commission Walking with Dinosaurs and said Bennett was able to strike the perfect balance of public service broadcasting.
“Jana had a great intellectual curiosity which she brought to viewers, which she never underestimated, and she transformed the way television produced specialist facts – taking the most complex subjects and tweaking them. making it accessible.”
Jane Root, former controller of BBC2, agreed that Bennett had “transformed” television. She said: “The television we work in today has its DNA running through it: from primetime science to BBC3 and so much more. She did all of this and was an amazing boss and great friend. Be a little more Jana, TV industry! That’s how we remember her.
Other tributes to Jana Bennett
Tim Davie, Director General of the BBC
“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, while having the foresight to bring television and digital services together. She was a brilliant and gifted colleague and it is a great loss for the television industry.
David Abraham, former Managing Director of Channel 4 and founder of Wonderhood Studios
“Jana understood how to take creative risks and have fun doing it. I remember her encouraging me to take the leap to work in America and then being just as positive about the idea of come back to join UKTV A confident and instinctive creative leader from whom I learned a lot about how to combine the best of public and commercial television.
Paul Buccieri, Chairman and President, A+E Networks
“All of us at A+E Networks mourn deeply the loss of our friend and colleague Jana Bennett. She had an extraordinary career in the media and her contributions to the A+E Networks family are too enormous to count. revolutionary, revolutionary, generous and beautiful. She will be missed terribly by all of us, and especially me. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family at this time.”
Janice Hadlow, ex-controller of BBC2
“Jana was a warm and wonderful colleague, and a good and generous friend who I will miss dearly.”
Former BBC head of factual scholar Martin Davidson
“Jana was a caring and approachable boss, but it was her passion for science as a force for good in all of our lives, and television’s ability to help provide that good, that made working for her so exhilarating. .”
Lucy Lumsden, former BBC comedy controller and founder of Yellow Door Productions
“Jana was my boss at the BBC and was extremely progressive, kind, loved comedy, supportive of women and was thrilled with the explosion of the digital age. Super smart Jana, we will miss you””