George Entwistle, the new Director General of the BBC, has promised to “go to war” on the BBC management bureaucracy that he believes is hampering the organisation's creativity and journalism.
In a statement of intent which appears to prepare the way for a management shake-up, Mr Entwistle complained that throughout his long career at the broadcaster he had been frustrated by its corporate structure and the damage it inflicted on the BBC's core purpose of making programmes.
“It can feel - and this has been true the whole time I have been here - that the way the organisation is run is somehow slightly dislocated from the thing the organisation is for: outstanding creative originality and outstanding journalistic quality,” Mr Entwistle told the Radio Times in his first interview as DG.
He promised to “go to war on…every bit of the design and the structure and management and every bit of the culture that isn't optimised for that.”
Mr Entwistle, 50, who has the difficult task of implementing cuts to the BBC budget of almost a fifth, today made a televised internal address to much of the corporation's 22,000 staff.
In the magazine interview he said the organisation could no longer compete with commercial rivals in bidding for football rights. “Look at the latest BT/Sky Premier League deal, that comes in at about £6.5 million per football game. We are simply no longer in that class.”
But he said the BBC could learn from its successful Olympics coverage, especially from the public interest in the achievements of female athletes. “Women's sport could be a real opportunity for the BBC,” he said.
The success of red button broadcasting at London 2012 was also encouraging and provided the “perfect challenge for the next Wimbledon”, said Entwistle.
Entwistle seemed to make a point on his first day in his new role at New Broadcasting House of meeting female programme makers - including Lauren Laverne of 6 Music and the team from Radio 4's “Woman's Hour”. The organisation is under pressure to provide greater opportunities to female presenters and Mr Entwistle told the Radio Times that the issue waqs being actively addressed. “We have made real progress in actively looking for, and finding, great female experts to front our big factual shows, but it's not enough, and the world will always be profoundly demanding of the BBC on this question, and it should be.”
He defended the Radio 4 'Today' programme for its male presenting bias. “The 'Today' programme struggles because we are dealing with party politics as it is, dealing with the world as it is, and that's a very male place.”
The new DG will have to tread a careful path in sanctioning the high pay of leading presenting talent. “We should fight to hang on to the people we love…but we should never bankrupt ourselves to keep them because that's not what we are for. We should keep on looking to find the next generation.”
Mr Entwistle has been fascinated by the workings of the BBC since he wrote to a predecessor at the age of six to complain about the scheduling of “Tom and Jerry”. By the age of 12 he was a devoted listener to Radio 4.
He declared himself to be a big fan of the BBC political satire “The Thick of It” and the advertising-based drama “Mad Men” which he said was “as close to poetry that it's possible for television to come”.
He is a former editor of “The Culture Show” and “Newsnight”, where he had the job of speaking into Jeremy Paxman's earpiece, making suggestuions that the presenter would instantly turn into interview questions. “You just feel like you are driving a really, really brilliant sports car,” is how he describes that experience.