Who is BBC's new director general George Entwistle?

Jul 4, 2012

Are we are about to see a shift in the Beeb’s Left-liberal mindset, asks Daily Telegraph leader writer

WHEN the BBC executive George Entwistle worked on Newsnight in the 1990s he was known as 'General Sir George Entwistle' in a nod to his "obsession with tanks and guns", according to political blogger Guido Fawkes.

Now appointed Director-General to take over from Mark Thompson after the Olympics, Entwistle will certainly have a battle on his hands as he seeks to maintain the BBC's relevancy.

For the past 15 months he has been director of BBC Vision, the division responsible for the commissioning, producing and scheduling of programmes across the corporation.

Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, said Entwistle was "a creative leader for a creative organisation" when he made the announcement today.

"His experience of making and delivering great programmes that audiences love – built up through many years of working for the corporation – will prove invaluable as he and his team work to ensure the BBC remains the greatest broadcaster in the world," Patten continued.

Patten did not mention that it was Entwistle who oversaw the BBC’s much-panned coverage of the Jubilee celebrations last month.

Entwistle, who turns 50 on Sunday, will receive a salary of £450,000, half what Mark Thompson was paid, following a public row in 2010 about BBC pay.

"I'm delighted that the chairman and trustees have decided I'm the right person for the job," Entwiste said today. "I love the BBC and it's a privilege to be asked to lead it into the next stage of its creative life."

BBC colleagues took to Twitter to welcome the appointment, with former Newsnight colleague Michael Crick saying: "Congratulations to George Entwistle, my former editor on Newsnight, and assistant producer on Panorama."

Robin Lustig, presenter of Radio 4's The World Tonight, referred to their time working together: "Oh dear - I remember when new #BBCDG George Entwistle was trainee on @bbcworldtonight. Hope he remembers too."

Despite being a BBC man through and through - he joined the corporation in 1989 and has worked on Panorama, Newsnight and The Culture Show - he had been welcomed in some right-wing quarters as a bulwark against the perceived liberal bias of the organisation.

David Hughes, leader writer of the Daily Telegraph, recounts in a blog one of Crick's recollections about his former boss:

"I vividly recall him saying that our job every day was to come in and ask ourselves: 'How can we f*** the government today?'  Now I should stress that by 'government', Entwistle didn’t mean the specific government at that time (which was the Blair administration) but people in power in general, and he thought it was our duty to hold them to account. I thought it was a great maxim for journalists."

Hughes considers that Entwistle's "lefty" rivals for the job - Caroline Thomson, the BBC's chief operating officer, and Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards - would not have said such a thing. "Perhaps, at long last, we are about to see a shift in the Beeb’s Left-liberal mindset," says Hughes.


George Entwistle is the 15th director-general of the BBC since 1927. These are his predecessors:

1927-38: John Reith
The first DG set out the BBC's original purpose - to educate, inform, entertain. His patrician vision bequeathed the word 'Reithian'.

1938-42: Frederick Ogilvie
An economist and an academic, Ogilvie cemented the BBC's reputation as a trusted source but resigned in 1942 to return to academia.

1942-44: Sir Cecil Graves and Robert W Foot
Graves was Reith's chosen successor and shared the directorship with Robert W Foot. Due to ill-health, Graves stepped down after a year.

1944-52: William Haley
Managed the BBC's transition to peacetime, introduced the Light Programme and oversaw creation of the Third Programme (later Radio 3).

1952-59: Sir Ian Jacob
Jacob had been director of BBC External Services and was the first Director-General to embrace television.

1960-69: Hugh Carleton Greene
He came from within the BBC, helped to turn round staff morale and accurately mirrored the changing mood of the Sixties.

1969-77: Charles Curran
Curran launched Ceefax and was a steady hand on the tiller during a period of great political and social upheaval.

1977-82: Ian Trethowan
A trusted broadcast journalist who led the BBC into the era of Thatcherism, he faced criticism over the corporation's coverage of the Falklands War.

1982-87: Alasdair Milne
The first TV producer to become director general, he was asked to step down as the BBC was though to need a change of direction.

1987-92: Michael Checkland
The first accountant DG, Checkland managed the BBC's finances well and freed up money for programmes.

1992-2000: John Birt
Birt introduced radical change to the BBC, launching the largest study of audiences's needs and redefining the public service role.

2000-2004: Greg Dyke
Popular with staff, former ITV man Dyke came a cropper when he challenged the Government over the David Kelly affair.

2004-2012: Mark Thompson
Brought the BBC into the digital age, but faced criticism over his high salary and excessive sums paid to talent.

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