Who will replace Tony Hall at the BBC?
James Purnell current favourite but many feel it’s time for first female director general
The BBC will appoint headhunters to find a replacement for Tony Hall, who has announced he will stand down as the director general of the broadcaster after seven years in the role.
“It’s been such a hard decision for me,” Hall wrote in an email to staff yesterday. “I love the BBC… If I followed my heart I would genuinely never want to leave.”
He added that he would continue to work “to demonstrate why public service broadcasting – with the BBC at its heart – is an eternal idea”.
Hall, who will leave in the summer, will then take up a new position as chairman of the board at the National Gallery.
Headhunters will be appointed within weeks to spearhead the search for his replacement. The Guardian says “many in the industry feel that the time is right for the BBC to have its first female director general”.
The closest the corporation has had to a female at the helm came seven years ago, when Caroline Thomson narrowly lost out to George Entwistle.
Among the names being mooted include Sharon White, the former chief executive of media regulator Ofcom; Gail Rebuck, the chair of the British arm of Penguin Random House; and the Channel 4 chief executive, Alex Mahon.
Several internal candidates have also been discussed, including the corporation’s director of radio and education, James Purnell; director of content, Charlotte Moore; and the director of news and current affairs, Fran Unsworth.
The Daily Mail says Purnell, who first worked at the BBC in the 1990s as head of corporate planning but left to become a special adviser to Tony Blair, is the “bookmakers’ favourite” for the job.
It also suggests Kamal Ahmed, who has served as the editorial director of BBC News since 2018, after working as political editor of The Observer, business editor of The Sunday Telegraph and director of communications at the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
The BBC’s media editor Amol Rajan says “the question of who gets [the job] will depend on where the BBC Board and its chairman, Sir David Clementi, want to place their emphasis” but warns that the “perfect candidate… doesn't exist”.
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