Editorial: As the new Director-General, Tony Hall can draw a line under the BBC's dramas

He needs to provide both sound judgement and a real sense of vision

Share
Related Topics

Tomorrow morning Tony Hall can put flesh on the bones of his ambitious mission statement to start “building a world-class team to lead a world-class BBC”. At the same time, he can begin to grapple with a host of separate, but interlinked, crises besetting a popular, troubled and irreplaceable institution.

Great things are expected of the new Director General after 12 successful years at the Royal Opera, where he won praise for making a highbrow art form more accessible to the wider public, and for stripping away the air of snobbery and social elitism that had long surrounded opera without resorting to the tactics of dumbing down.

He was also – a not unimportant point in his new job – adept at teasing money out of the Government, a skill that he will need to demonstrate in spades as the next bruising round of negotiations on the BBC licence fee hones into view in 2016.

He starts job at a time when talk is more widespread than ever of the BBC being in the throes of a general crisis. Much of this talk is misplaced and mischievous and we should be aware of the corner from which it comes, that of the same diehard enemies of the corporation who complain endlessly about how left wing it is and who would love to see the whole business dismantled.

We should beware of buying into their Cassandra-like predictions of doom. Most polls show that levels of public confidence in the BBC remain robust, remarkably so given the number of recent scandals that have afflicted the corportation, and at a time when society tends to look on all big institutions with mistrust.

At the same time, it would not do to underestimate the size of the “urgent” section of Lord Hall’s in-tray.

Brush fires crackle away, from two key reports due out this year, by Dame Janet Smith on the Savile case and by Dinah Rose QC on accusations of bullying, to further strike threats and attacks on the corporation’s alleged disinterest in the arts and ratings-chasing mentality.

It is not a good sign when Sir Nicholas Hytner at the National Theatre and Melvyn Bragg attack you almost as vigorously as the most right-wing Conservatives, albeit for very different reasons.

Behind many of the separate ailments afflicting the BBC lie common, broad causes: drift at the top, a perception that management is reactive and too often dragged along by events, a growing alienation between journalists and executives; a question mark about what the BBC still stands for.

These are deep-seated problems of corporate culture, which cannot be cured overnight by the stroke of a pen, although a clearer separation of editorial and management functions following the appointments of a director of news and a director of television should help.

Beyond pushing through important administrative changes, wielding the sword to bloated and suffocating layers of management and – we hope – placing a much greater emphasis on promoting women, the BBC looks to Lord Hall to provide it with a renewed sense of being led by someone who combines sound judgement with a real vision of the role of a publicly-funded broadcaster in the modern age.

The BBC must be more than a mirror held up to society, reflecting back what it thinks it sees. Where is the risk and adventure in that? Lord Hall himself has said that the BBC should be something that people find exciting, which at the same time they think of as a friend. A splendid metaphor. Let’s hope that he can pull it off.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Officer (HMP Brixton Mentoring Project)

£24,000 per annum pro rata (21 hours per week): Belong: Work as part of a cutt...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

DT teachers required for supply roles in Cambridge

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: DT teachers required ...

Secondary supply teachers required in Wisbech

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary teachers ne...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Fifi Geldof (left) with her sister Pixie at an event in 2013  

Like Fifi Geldof, I know how important it is to speak about depression

Rachael Lloyd
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering