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

Share
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

Bookkeeper / Accounts Administrator - Central London, £30-40k

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Bookkeeper - Central London, £30-40k...

Permanent KS2 Teacher required

Negotiable: Randstad Education Ilford: A Redbridge based Primary School is see...

NVQ Assessor Level 2 & 3 Sport Development

£19200 - £26880 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: In NVQ Ass...

Secondary supply teachers required in Newmarket

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary supply teac...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh  

Scottish independence: Forget Yes and No — what about a United Kingdom of Independent States?

Ben Judah
Francois Hollande at the Paris summit on Iraq with ministers from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain on 15 September  

What's going to happen in Syria and Iraq? A guide to the new anti-Isis coalition's global strategy

Jonathan Russell
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
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week