Leading article: Choppy waters await the BBC's new helmsman

One reason Mr Entwistle got the nod is that he offers continuity, along with dependability

Related Topics

The BBC played safe. After splashing out on a recruitment firm, advertising and pursuing a process lasting months, the corporation's governing trust chose as its new Director-General George Entwistle, a BBC insider and a favoured choice of the outgoing chief, Mark Thompson. A popular selection within the organisation, Mr Entwistle is an experienced factual programme-maker, a former Newsnight editor who was made director of vision across all the BBC's TV output last year. As such, he was technically in charge of the Jubilee Pageant coverage that drew criticism for its dumbed-down presentation. That, however, was never likely to count against him within the context of the entire BBC.

But it is precisely that bigger picture which provokes pause. Mr Entwistle is an unproven leader, a relatively unknown member of the BBC's senior backroom staff. He has been fast-tracked through an array of internal BBC appointments, finally ending up with the biggest job of all. At no stage has he ever been accountable to an external audience; never has he had to deal with the corporation's many critics and its political masters. His negotiating skills are unknown beyond BBC towers. Nor has he been called upon to lead or to motivate a large body of staff and contributors. In his new post, he will have to be everything: visionary, strategist, commander, poker player, enthuser, cajoler, fixer, pastoral carer, listener and talker. Presumably, he interviewed exceptionally well. Because it is hard to see in his CV where all those boxes are ticked. Likewise, it seems strange that, after so much effort had been made to canvass external candidates, it appears that none, apart from Ed Richards, boss of the Ofcom regulator, reached the final short-list. So what was the whole search for? Heaven forbid it was a shoo-in from start to finish, with others there just to provide a veneer of respectability and make up the numbers.

One of the reasons, perhaps the primary one, that Mr Entwistle got the nod is that he offers continuity. Along with that word can be added solidity and dependability. Which would be fine if that was all the BBC required. He inherits a demoralised workforce, ground down by years of cuts and seemingly permanent revolution, culminating in the relocation of many to Salford. Often, such change appears to have been enacted in pursuit of abstract goals of political correctness and social engineering rather than demonstrable gain. That, too, has been accompanied by a staleness in the BBC schedules, exemplified by over-reliance on a coterie of over-exposed presenters and over-used formats. Yet the corporation continues to be over-manned in places.

One of Mr Entwistle's key tasks will be to show that he can manage the BBC's resources efficiently and make necessary cuts. He needs to be clever, too. While the BBC has a guaranteed income stream, the funds are not unlimited. The corporation has grown so broad that in several cases that cash is spread very thinly. The new broom must be just that, prioritising and redistributing money. That will require assurance and toughness. Does the BBC continue, for instance, to plough millions into sport when sports-mad and cash-rich Sky is constantly tightening its grip? Might the licence fee not be better spent elsewhere? It is not clear either where the BBC lies in relation to new technology. Its internet presence is huge, but at what cost?

Always there is the nagging thought that what the BBC should be doing is focusing on content. Get that right and the rest will follow, including plaudits from those who sit in judgement, come the next Charter review. These are giant challenges for Mr Entwistle. The trustees say he is the man to meet them. We shall see.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

Read Next

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage

If I were Prime Minister: I would create a government that actually reflects its people

Kaliya Franklin
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower