The head of Film4 follows in the footsteps of last year's winner John Hurt. Other past recipients include Mike Leigh, Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jarman, Mary Selway, Ridley and Tony Scott, Working Title Films, Lewis Gilbert, and the Harry Potter series of films.
"It's a surprise and a great honour to have been given this award by BAFTA," Ross said.
"I owe it of course to the wonderful filmmakers I've had the privilege of working with - and to my team at Film4, with whom I share it."
She added: "We're very lucky to be so supported by Channel 4 and by David Abraham who continues to champion our work.
"There are incredibly talented people working within our industry, as well as outside it - and 30 years ago Film4 was built to find these people, nurture them and help contribute to our British film culture. It's a privilege to try to keep this idea alive."
Chairman of BAFTA John Willis added: "Tessa Ross has made an immense contribution to British cinema during her time at Channel 4.
"Tessa's impeccable taste, and her passion for great writing and directing has shone through every film she has been involved with; she is an extremely worthy recipient of this important Award."
At Channel 4, Ross controls film and drama. She has worked on Stephen Daldry's Billy Elliot, Chris Morris's Four Lions, Steve McQueen's Hunger, Paddy Considine's Tyrannosaur, Martin McDonagh's In Bruges, Joe Cornish's Attack the Block, Sam Taylor-Wood's Nowhere Boy and Richard Ayoade's Submarine.
While at Channel 4, drama works commissioned have included Shameless, White Teeth, The Devil's Whore, Sex Traffic, Omagh and Elizabeth I.
She was previously appointed CBE in the New Year 2010 Honours List for her services to broadcasting.
The EE BAFTAs, hosted by Stephen Fry, will take place on Sunday, February 10 from London's Royal Opera House.