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Tony Hall to stand down as BBC DG

Hall "can be seen as having succeeded at blunting the most ferocious attacks on the BBC" analyst tells TVBEurope

The BBC has announced Tony Hall is to stand down as director general this summer.

In a letter to BBC staff, Hall said it had been a hard decision to step down after seven years in the role.

“Over the next six months my priority, as always, will be to champion this great organisation and continue to direct our re-invention,” said Hall. “There’s so much we can do to transform the creative industries around the UK still further and to project this country’s talent and ideas to the world.”

The BBC’s chairman David Clementi said responsibility for appointing Hall’s successor lies with the BBC Board. “Within the next few weeks we will publish a job description and advertise the job, seeking candidates within the Corporation and externally. We are committed to selecting the best qualified person for the job,” he added.

“Tony Hall is an inspirational creative leader, within the UK and around the globe, and the BBC has been lucky to have him as our director-general for the last seven years,” Clementi said. “Tony has led the BBC with integrity and a passion for our values that is obvious to everyone who meets him. His reforms have shaped the BBC for the future and he will leave the BBC in the summer with our gratitude and our very best wishes.”

Alice Enders, head of research at Enders Analysis, tells TVBEurope Hall’s decision to step down now will give his successor the full job of the forthcoming mid-term review of the BBC’s 10-year Charter as well as dealing with the new government.

“The BBC is facing the end of funding for free TV licences as of June 2020, and it will become much less popular once pensioners have to stump up or turn off their tellies,” says Enders. “Like other broadcasters it is facing the inevitable decline of its viewing audiences, especially among the young, and the need to make large investments in technology for its online presence. The big threat is that Netflix has the eyeballs tuned in more and more.”

Asked what Hall’s legacy will be, Enders says: “There are an illustrious line of predecessors behind him, all of whom were ultimately creatures of their time, more so than for all time. Tony Hall took the helm in 2013 at a time when the BBC was being attacked by the coalition government with former culture secretary John Whittingdale consulting for example on privatising the BBC. So he can be seen as having succeeded at blunting the most ferocious of attacks on its existence, which is what we would hope the BBC’s DG is for. Unfortunately, the episode of the 2015 settlement “agreed” by Tony Hall with Whittingdale (who imposed the deal decided by George Osborne) demonstrated that the BBC has less leverage than meets the eye when faced with politicians intent on taking it down a peg or two.”

Enders suggests Hall’s successor will need to be someone who can uniquely build bridges to the entire political class, starting with the Prime Minister, and convince them that the BBC is an institution worth supporting in the 21st century. “That in any event is the prevailing view of the audience the BBC serves. It would be delightful if politicians responded to this sentiment more than their desire to give less space to an impartial and precious source of news and current affairs.”

Following Hall’s announcement it was revealed Hall has been appointed chair of the board of the trustees of the National Gallery.