Just in: BBC chief quits

Just in: BBC chief quits


norman lebrecht

January 20, 2020

Tony Hall has announced he will step down this summer at director general of the BBC.

He will be 69 and will have been in the job for 7 years.

He leaves not a moment too soon.

The BBC needs a stronger defender from accusations of political bias from left to right. It needs someone untained by a long trail of bad executives and unequal pay.

Above all it needs someone who can talk peace to government – which rules out Hall’s successor in waiting James Purnell, who is a former Labour Cabinet minister.

The next D-G will come from the outside.

Tony Hall, after a long BBC career ending up as Head of News, was an exremely successful director of the Royal Opera House, earning himself a seat in the House of Lords. His return to the BBC was somewhat less glorious. Its cultural assets, in particular, are in steep decline and its strategy is convoluted.


His best asset as a manager was his ability to take a joke against himself, notably the comedy series W1A 1AA


  • pageturner says:

    This bodes well (not) for the National Gallery, which I hear is his next appointment

  • Alan says:

    Christ do these people just lurch from one job to another! How does one measure success these days? By the number of fukc ups!

  • Garry Humphreys says:

    The Government (and it seems immaterial which party is in power) seems to judge the BBC solely on what it perceives to be its political coverage, entirely ignoring wonderful programmes elsewhere, particularly on Radio Four. Also, to many, the BBC means only television. My wife says that if Radio Four ceases she’s leaving the country (I might join her, though I doubt we’d find such excellence anywhere else)! We need public service broadcasting – and broadcasters who will hold politicians (and others) fearlessly to account – to uphold the Reithian principles: to inform, educate and entertain, without commercial pressures or interference. No-one one is perfect; we all make mistakes; but the BBC has made a pretty good job of it so far. And politicians should never forget they they are our elected representatives, and there’s always another election …

    • 18mebrumaire says:

      Not to mention BBC Radio 3; not to mention 5 BBC orchestras; not to mention Dominic Cummings and his soon to be assembled team of ‘wierdos and misfits’. Sit back and watch that particular scenario play out!

    • CatsWhisker says:

      >>if Radio Four ceases she’s leaving the country (I might join her, though I doubt we’d find such excellence anywhere else)!

      Typical little England comment. Public service broadcasting can be well done by others. For example I often listen to Austrian radio’s Oe1 channel and find it in the main higher-brow and more interesting than the relentlessly chummy Radios 3 and 4.

      Alternatively, and sticking with programming in English, as we’re in the 21st century maybe it’s worth pointing out that some podcasts now far surpass Radio 4’s coverage in range, depth, intelligence and the ability to hold one’s attention.

      But maybe this discussion is about The Archers, in which case I give up.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      “broadcasters who will hold politicians (and others) fearlessly to account”

      Except that the BBC comes across as a middle-class, soft-left, London centric organisation. It is not helped by the fact most of the people working there come exactly from that background: often having worked as unpaid interns before getting a permanent position (which only can be afforded by London middle-class kids).

      Bluntly, it is emphatically not the job of the BBC to hold politicians to account. The BBC hasn’t been elected by anyone. Holding to account, and political debate, should be done by politicians standing for election. The job of political journalism should be to facilitate and report that political debate, not to participate in it.

  • Herbie G says:

    That news has made my week! I can only hope that Alan Davey will follow. Alas, I doubt whether Lord Tony’s replacement will be any better. More dumbing down, more wasting money on celebs, chat shows and drivel. And they have temerity to ask for a license fee!