Discovery Networks U.S. has named Jana Bennett, a veteran
programmer for the British Broadcasting Corp., as senior vice president and general
manager of The Learning Channel, replacing John Ford, officials said last week.
Bennett, an American native, will join TLC in mid-September
from the BBC, where she has been director of programs and deputy chief executive of BBC
Production and its 4,500-person staff.
She is replacing Ford, who was named president of Discovery
Health Media Inc. in February. Discovery Health launched a Web site July 1, with an analog
cable channel set to follow Aug. 2.
In her new post, Bennett will be responsible for all
programming, operations and management of TLC, which reaches 70 million homes.
"I don't want to break something that is doing
extremely well," Bennett, reached in Great Britain, said.
During her past 10 years at the BBC, she has worked with
Discovery, co-producing various documentaries for Discovery Channel and TLC. Bennett said
she has enjoyed that association, as well as her contact with executives such as Johnathan
Rodgers, president of Discovery Networks. She will report to Rodgers.
"I have a feeling for what the networks -- Discovery
and TLC -- are all about," she said. "And there's an excitement in the
American media, you can just feel it -- the multimedia and convergence."
TLC's Peabody Award-winning miniseries, Intimate
Universe, was one of Bennett's projects, as is Tobacco Wars, an upcoming
series on the political, scientific and social issues surrounding cigarettes.
But Bennett said she also enjoyed the original series that
Ford brought to TLC, such as Trauma:Life in the ER, which has garnered high
ratings. "I have been an admirer from afar," she added.
In a prepared statement, Rodgers said, "Jana's
extraordinary creative vision and her strong production-management skills make her the
perfect choice to lead TLC into the new millenium."
Bennett started her broadcasting career in 1979 as a BBC
News journalist, moving over to production in 1981.
Discovery, which markets and distributes BBC America,
acquired TLC in 1991 and relaunched the channel. Under Ford's helm, the
network's distribution and ratings bloomed.
TLC has been a top-10 network in terms of reach the
valuable adults 25-to-54 demographic. And last year, it doubled its profitability compared
with 1997, according to Discovery officials.