Editorial: A radical takes over at the BBC

 

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Many might have supposed that George Entwistle was a safe, even a rather boring, choice as the new Director-General of the BBC. He has, after all, worked for the nation's flagship broadcaster for 23 years and might therefore be expected to be comfortable with its ways. It is refreshing, then, to hear from Mr Entwistle's first print interview that he secured the top job thanks to rather radical plans for reform.

Arguably, the new DG was always going to need to be inventive, given that he or she was to preside over 20 per cent budget cuts while simultaneously charged by the chairman, Lord Patten, with improving the creative quality of the BBC's output by 20 per cent. Mr Entwistle's proposal is to simplify the corporate structure which he has found, over two decades in the organisation, to stifle both originality and journalism. He also wants to strip away layers of management and make the creative parts of the BBC work in greater partnership together.

There is reason to hope that Mr Entwistle is as realistic as he is inspired. After all, he knows he has to be seen to deliver ahead of negotiations with the Government to renew the BBC Charter and licence fee after 2017. And he knows, too, that the Corporation can no longer compete with broadcasters like Sky or BT in the eye-watering bidding wars over football rights. But the success of the BBC's Olympics coverage provides one template. And the new boss also knows that finding talent in unexpected places, and developing talent in areas where it has been neglected, will be crucial. His well-known support for getting more women on to the airwaves will help.

In an internal broadcast to the BBC's 22,000 staff yesterday, Mr Entwistle trod a careful line between dictating and listening, something of a novelty in an organisation where DGs have tended towards either one or the other. He is a popular choice among the staff, which will be good for morale; he also knows where the organisation's levers are located. The combination should help. But the task ahead remains formidable.

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