Tony Hall’s arts vision boils down to the Bob and Jonty show

Tony Hall’s arts vision boils down to the Bob and Jonty show


norman lebrecht

March 26, 2014

There is no doubting the good intentions of Tony Hall, former Covent Garden director whisked back into the crisis-ridden BBC. Tony, head of news in the John Birt era, brought with him a reputation for fair dealing, clear decision-making and a passion for the performing arts.

Yesterday, he unveiled the mission. It is a bold move to return the arts to where they belonged in the BBC’s heyday. But between vision and accomplishment something went wrong. The plan had to go through BBC channels which dictated the insertion of an extra layer of directors – Jonty Claypole as Director of Arts and Bob Shennan as Director of Music. Who needs extra executives? Only the BBC.


tony hall2

The announcement coincided with the resignation of Roger Wright as head of BBC Proms and Radio 3. He clearly does not need extra execs walking the floor above his head.

So why does the BBC?

Tony Hall has not put a foot wrong before this announcement. What he has now revealed is that his hands are tied and his feet manacled to a BBC bureaucracy that typifies the organisation’s deep confusion and loss of purpose, a management malaise that many ascribe to the Birt years. Politicians are not the only ones who wonder if the Corporation is still fit for purpose. If the BBC is to be saved, it needs to be rescued from its expensive suits.

Just smell the gloom as you enter Broadcasting House.


  • Arran Pockock says:

    This is all so disappointing. Hall is a decent guy but he’s just not got the spark for the BBC DG job. Safe pair of hands, yes, but where is the vision? He uses the term but shows no sign of actually having found one. Is he just too old, too establishment, too conventional?

  • penelope clare howard says:

    Mr lebrecht this post and Arran pockock”s reply to it makes me so angry. So angry that i have decided to comment for the first time. The enemies of the BBC , who are also the enemies of the Arts, are circling around them, trying to destroy it.Criticism of a strong organization is fine , but adding to the attacks on a vulnerable an appalling lack of judgement. I also believe that Tony Hall is the best thing to happen to the BBC for years he certainly is not too old ! back him !Otherwise all the dire stories of the Arts dying in America that are on this site every day will soon apply to Britain.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    I love the BBC but the programming of BBC 4 is so poor. If I see Top of the Pops 1979 listed once more I might have to scream.