Tony Hall, who has been appointed director general of the
BBC, smiles as he leaves New Broadcasting House in central
London. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
The BBC today named a former journalist who runs the
Royal Opera House to lead the broadcaster and restore public
faith after sex abuse scandals tarnished the reputation of one
of Britain's most treasured institutions.
Tony Hall, a former director of BBC news, will replace George
Entwistle, who resigned as director-general this month after
failing to get to grips with a crisis which threw the
90-year-old state-funded organisation into turmoil.
Hall's immediate task will be to rebuild the confidence and
image of a news organisation buffeted by the fallout from a
scandal centred on former BBC presenter Jimmy Savile, who
died at 84 last year and has since been exposed as one of
Britain's most prolific, predatory child abusers.
"I care passionately about the BBC, about what it can do, its
programme makers and the impact we have," Hall told
"It's one of those extraordinary organisations which is an
absolutely essential part of the UK, of Britain, of who we
are, but also has this incredible impact around the world,
Chris Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust which overseas the
broadcaster and appoints its director-general, said Hall had
been the only candidate approached, but denied there had been
any external pressure to rush the appointment.
"I'm delighted that in moving fast we've also managed to find
the out-and-out outstanding candidate," said Patten, who has
warned that the future of the publicly-funded broadcaster was
at risk unless it underwent radical reform.
"If we'd spent the next four months on this, you would have
all been telling us we were off our trolleys and quite
properly as well," he added.
A series of senior BBC managers have stood aside while
investigations continue into serious editorial failings,
leaving the broadcaster vulnerable to claims it lacks
Patten said Hall was "the right person to lead the BBC out of
its current crisis" and that his journalism experience would
be "invaluable as the BBC looks to rebuild its reputation".
Hall, 61, who will take up the role in March, left the BBC
shortly after missing out on the top job in 2001.
He will also face the task of streamlining an overly
bureaucratic institution accused by its journalists of being
top-heavy with multiple layers of management.
Entwistle lasted just 54 days in the job, quitting after the
BBC's flagship programme Newsnight wrongly claimed a senior
Conservative politician had been involved in child sex abuse.
The broadcaster last week paid £185,000 pounds in settlement
to Lord Alistair McAlpine, a former treasurer of Britain's
Conservative party, who had faced public opprobrium on the
heels of the Newsnight report.
Repercussions from the flawed programme have spread beyond
the BBC. Commercial rival ITV agreed on Thursday to pay
McAlpine 125,000 pounds after a chat show presenter showed a
card with the names of alleged sex abusers during an
interview with Prime Minister David Cameron.
McAlpine is also pursuing Twitter users who sent messages
over the social network naming him.
Entwistle had been widely criticised for lacklustre
leadership in dealing with disclosures on Savile and
Newsnight's dropping of an investigation into the late
presenter last year, shortly before the BBC broadcast
programmes in tribute to him.
"The past eight weeks have been very traumatic for the BBC
but this is a significant day ... (that) marks the beginning
of a new phase," Patten said.
Hall's appointment was widely greeted as a sound choice,
although there were some concerns at his limited experience
outside the publicly-funded sector.
"I'm delighted. I think he's a very wise appointment," Roy
Greenslade, professor of journalism at London's City
"He's a rare combination: someone who rose very high at the
BBC, but who's also done well outside it."
John Whittingdale, chairman of parliament's media committee,
said the Trust had been sensible to move quickly in making a
new appointment but he questioned whether Hall would be able
to deal with reforming BBC bureaucracy.
"That, possibly, is an area where Tony Hall doesn't have
experience and there might have been a case for somebody with
more external management experience," Whittingdale told