Richard Desmond's staff cull claims big names at Channel 5By Tara Conlan and Jason Deans/Guardian
Some of Channel 5's longest-serving staff are taking voluntary
redundancy from the broadcaster, including Nick Wilson, Chris Shaw and Robert Charles, as part of new owner Richard Desmond's cost-cutting drive.
Staff were told late yesterday that Wilson, director of children's programming; Shaw, senior programme controller; and controller of sport Robert Charles are leaving after all staff were invited to apply for voluntary redundancy last month.
Wilson, once described as the "Simon Cowell of children's television", has worked for the children's department since 1996, before Channel 5 launched, and set up the popular long-running preschool strand, Milkshake!.
Former ITN executive and News at Ten editor Shaw was the launch editor of the ground-breaking Five News in 1997, overseeing a more informal approach copied by other broadcasters, including Kirsty Young perching on her desk to read the news.
He was later promoted to controller of news, current affairs and documentaries at Channel 5, before becoming senior programme controller.
Charles, a former controller of sport at Yorkshire Television, joined Channel 5 in 1997 and made live football a key feature of the channel's output, in addition to picking up Test match cricket highlights in 2006.
Others understood to be in line to be granted voluntary redundancy include entertainment head Donna Taberer and head of production Nan Whittingham – who both joined Five last year from Sky. Those taking voluntary will be leaving over the next few weeks.
Dawn Airey, the Channel 5 chairman and chief executive, is due to leave Five at the end of the week.
Airey is understood to have been asked to stay with Channel 5, but has chosen to move to the broadcaster's former owner RTL, the pan-European broadcaster that owns Talkback Thames, the London-based producer of The Apprentice and Britain's Got Talent.
Channel 5 staff are currently in a consultation period about voluntary redundancies and more departures are expected. It is understood that the trawl for voluntary redundancy offered to staff last month was over-subscribed. The offer is in line with the terms given last year, with four weeks' pay for every year served and payment in lieu of notice period.
Last month Desmond, the Daily Express and OK! proprietor, took a firm grip on Channel 5, with a brutal management cull that saw almost the entire executive board departing. He wants to implement £20m in cuts that will lead to between 60 and 80 job losses – more than a quarter of about 300 employees.
A spokesman for Desmond's company Northern & Shell declined to comment.