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

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam