BBC staff welcome new Director-General Tony Hall

Nov 22, 2012

But new boss might be controversial for some older BBC staff, as he was close to the unpopular John Birt

TONY HALL is to leave his post as chief executive of the Royal Opera House to take over as BBC Director-General. Baron Hall of Birkenhead, to give him his official title, was previously director of news at the BBC and is the third DG in a row to have been a former Newsnight editor.

Hall, 61, left the BBC in 2001 after losing out to Greg Dyke in a previous search for a Director-General. He said in a statement today: "I believe passionately in the BBC and that's why I have accepted Lord Patten's invitation to become Director-General.

"This organisation is an incredibly important part of what makes the United Kingdom what it is. And of course it matters not just to people in this country - but to tens of millions around the world too. It's been a difficult few weeks, but together we'll get through it."

Hall will start in early March on a salary of £450,000 – the same as the controversial pay-off awarded to George Entwistle who resigned as DG after just 54 days in the job because of two botched Newsnight investigations into alleged child abuse.

Media commentator Professor Roy Greenslade gives a ringing endorsement to Hall. "He's a rare combination: someone who rose very high at the BBC, but who's also done well outside it," he says, according to the BBC.

"I think he covers both essential facets of what you need in a Director-General. He has news experience - which will be essential to clean up this Newsnight mess - and he has business experience at the Royal Opera House."

BBC staff were also quick to congratulate Hall on his appointment, reports the Radio Times. Question Time host David Dimbleby, who made his own pitch for the job, managed to hide any disappointment, saying: "I think it's a very good choice and a great relief for those of us who work for the BBC.

"He knows the BBC and he's worked outside but, above all, he understands BBC journalism. He's a good public face for the BBC. I feel like I'm serving in the Royal Navy when the message came in: 'Winston is back.'"

He added: "I think most people will be thrilled at this choice and [we] will also get the leadership that is needed from somebody who is a creative man and a good administrator - and a calm man in a time of crisis."

BBC political editor Nick Robinson tweeted: "Tony Hall shrewd choice as BBC DG. Knows news and arts. Knows BBC and outside world. Knows need to justify what a publicly funded body does."

And former Newsnight political editor Michael Crick tweeted: “Congrats to Tony Hall as new BBC DG, the third successive ex-Newsnight producer to get the job.”

But Columbia School of Journalism Professor Emily Bell points out that Hall could be a controversial choice for some BBC staff, because he was close to John Birt, who was DG from 1992 until 2000 and was hugely unpopular for making far-reaching structural changes with little consultation.

"Tony Hall [was] controversial in his day among staff as he was very close [to] John Birt - though Birt was in many ways most visionary," said Bell on Twitter.

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