'I've had 102 years of being a Chairman' - The Headline Interview with Sir Christopher Bland

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'I've had 102 years of being a Chairman' - The Headline Interview with Sir Christopher Bland

In 50 years of business he has chaired some of Britain’s most influential companies including the British Broadcasting Corportation (BBC) and British Telecom (BT).

Sir Christopher Bland joined Independent Editor Amol Rajan for The Headline Interview.

He earned a knighthood for his work with the health service as well as his many years as Chairman of the BBC. But his business acumen includes both the private and public sector.

The 76-year-old’s life began with a character building childhood. Born to parents that worked abroad, Sir Christopher grew up in an English boarding school and later went on the study at Oxford.

At university, he captained the fencing and modern pentathlon teams which led to the representing the Irish fencing team at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.

After his studies he carried out National Service, working in the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards. It was here that he became interested in politics.

Sir Christopher became a member of the Greater London Council for Lewisham in 1967, of which he later became a chairman. This he explains is a seat he never wanted to fill, as a Conservative he was assure it was a safe Labour seat, and it turns out it wasn’t.

Despite calling for a re-count he took the position.

This strangely led him to meet the man who would move his career into broadcasting. He was offered the role of Deputy Chairman of the Independent Television Authority, which he took - which encouraged him to invest in a television.

He went on to huge successes politically and in business.

Between 1996 and 2001, he worked as the BBC Chairman, this is a job that was recommended to him by John Burt an old colleague of London Weekend Television.

He said he had no doubts about taking on such a huge role, due to his previous experience, despite knowing that it was "the biggest job he ever took on".

When asked about the criticisms of the BBC, especially when it comes to wasting the money generated by the licence fee, Sir Christopher admitted the organisation wastes money.


He has described himself as “naturally bossy” - which has worked well in his favour, as he has been the boss of 19 businesses and industries, and counting.

In his career he has held senior positions not only at the BBC, but in the NHS, Greater London Council, ITV, Royal Shakespeare Company and most recently BT.


One business move he made in his tenure at BT was to “de-merge” BT Cellnet with O2. Today BT have has bought EE for £12.5 billion, effectively re-merging with the mobile market. Sir Christopher says this his previous mover was still the right thing to do.

Sir Chistopher married Jennifer Mary Denise May in 1981 and together they had a son, Archie Bland to is now a writer and commissioning editor on the Saturday Guardian. 

Archie was  previously foreign editor, deputy editor, and senior writer at the Independent, and commentator on London Live.

Sir Christopher has proved that age is only a number in his long career. 

At the age of 63 he took on the role of Chairman of BT and made huge changes to the company. 

He also proved you are never too old, when at the age of 75, he penned his first novel, Ashes in the Wind. Described as an epic story of two Irish tribes, the Anglo-Irish Burkes and the Catholic Irish Sullivans from 1919 to 2010.

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