His predecessor lasted 54 days. But new BBC Director General has plans for 2022
Boss happier to talk about Corporation's centenary than Savile on his first day in the job
By way of correcting anyone who thought he was arriving as an interim Director General of the BBC, Tony Hall told the organisation's staff that he was setting his sights on its centenary – nine years away in 2022.
On his first day in his new role, Lord Hall, 62, arrived at New Broadcasting House in London at 8.30am and spent time meeting new colleagues and giving interviews to rival broadcasters. He sent an email to the BBC's 23,000 staff in which he told them "the BBC's best days lie ahead of us". Not once did he mention the name of their erstwhile co-worker, Jimmy Savile, the man responsible for the scandal that has given Lord Hall a belated chance to run an organisation he joined 40 years ago as a trainee.
Instead, he talked of "learning the lessons" and "building on our many strengths" and going on the "next stage of our journey". The BBC has just endured one of its worst leadership crises, so it was understandable that Lord Hall's first day performance came straight out of the textbook. What he did do was make a firm commitment to the role. His predecessor George Entwistle, exposed by the Savile scandal and brought down by the Lord McAlpine fiasco which followed it, lasted 54 days. Lord Hall told staff he is already looking forward to the Twenties. "In the coming weeks, I will set out how we can all shape the next chapter for the BBC as we move towards our centenary in 2022," he said.
Should he remain that long, Lord Hall would be longer serving than Mark Thompson, the most successful recent incumbent, who did the job for eight years. Thompson left in the afterglow of the BBC's coverage of the London Olympics. The BBC centenary would provide Lord Hall with a similarly momentous finale. By then he would be 71 – most BBC DGs have stood down in their late Fifties. His entrance was an attempt to allow the BBC to begin a new era. He knows further turbulence is to come as the BBC publishes the findings of two internal inquiries into workplace harassment.
The Dame Janet Smith review is examining how Savile and others were able to commit sex offences on BBC premises. Lord Hall, who arrived at the BBC in 1973 when Savile was starting to present his BBC1 show Clunk, Click, will have a better grasp than younger BBC executives of the culture of that period.
He paid tribute to Tim Davie's "excellent leadership" as acting DG and said the BBC was back on track. "We are now winning back trust, something which will always be the most precious commodity for our organisation. We must never take it for granted.
"What we produce here is extraordinary and distinctive and very, very wonderful." But with budgets being reduced and more job cuts to come, his tenure at the BBC will also be a battle to convince MPs and the public that its licence fee funding is value for money.
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