Challenges for the new director general
- 4 July 2012
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
George Entwistle has been announced as the new BBC director general, replacing the outgoing Mark Thompson. What are the challenges the newcomer is likely to face?
It's the programmes, stupid!
The BBC now talks about content rather than programmes, because it produces so much for its website - but you get the idea. Ultimately, the BBC - and its director general - will be judged on the output, and how much audiences have enjoyed it.
This can be measured in many ways - ratings, awards, reviews, appreciation surveys. But in the end it comes down to a handful of great programmes and/or services which the BBC can point to with pride and say "we did that".
Serious or showbiz?
That "handful" will vary from household to household. Fans of Sherlock, Strictly Come Dancing, Top Gear or Wonders of the Solar System may or may not like all of these programmes.
They may not all be listeners of the Proms on Radio 3, Radio 4's Today programme, 6 Music or users of the BBC News website, which others can't live without. Some will hate output - and presenters - that others will adore.
As the "serious or showbiz" row over the coverage of the Queen's Jubilee Pageant showed, you can't please all people all of the time.
The creative challenge for the director general is to steer a clear course for the corporation, encompassing the breadth of output while keeping standards high.
Balancing the books
The licence fee has been frozen until 2016 and the BBC has been given new things to pay for, including the BBC World Service.
Cuts of 20% have been announced - and approved by the BBC Trust - on top of substantial savings already made in previous years. They will not be easy to achieve.
Plans to close Radio 6 Music and the Asian Network were overturned after the BBC Trust's intervention and no services are now due to close.
But keeping quality high when so many jobs are being lost will not be easy. Will the next director general review those decisions?
The next BBC Charter and licence fee settlement
The BBC was set up by a Royal Charter and Agreement, as distinct from an Act of Parliament, to emphasise its independence from the government.
Even so, it's the government of the day that negotiates the terms with the BBC.
The current Charter also runs until the end of 2016, so negotiations over the future size and scope of the corporation will begin before then.
At the same time, the next licence fee deal will be thrashed out - a major challenge for the director general.
The next 'big thing'
The world of communications is changing more rapidly than ever and the BBC now competes with broadcasters and technology companies all over the world.
The director general, consulting with the BBC Trust, must steer the corporation through the digital maze, and make big decisions about where to invest large sums of its money.
Previous directors general have led the BBC from radio into television, to the internet, digital terrestrial TV, high-definition TV and the iPlayer.
Making the crucial technological moves over the next five years will be harder than ever.
How global and how commercial?
The BBC is a worldwide player in news and entertainment. BBC World Service and the BBC World News TV channel have global followings.
Strictly Come Dancing (Dancing With the Stars, as it's called in the US and other parts of the world) has become the world's most successful TV format. Top Gear and Doctor Who are also international brands.
But there is a tricky tension between the BBC's public-service funding (which is being squeezed) and its commercial demands and aspirations (which are growing).
The director general must lead the corporation through this too.
Top BBC pay
The amount the BBC pays its top management and on-air performers has been highly controversial, damaging the corporation's reputation.
BBC chairman Lord Patten has said it's a "toxic" issue which is being tackled, and the new director general will be paid less than the current one.
But the BBC still competes for talent with commercial broadcasters and technology companies across the world. It's not an issue that will go away.
The BBC's programmes and website are paid for by every household in the country and are available all over the world. They compete not just with broadcasters such as ITV and BSkyB, but newspapers across the political spectrum.
The director general must expect rows with the government and complaints from everywhere - listeners and viewers, political pressure groups, commercial rivals and the press.
A previous director general, Greg Dyke - who lost his job after a row with the government - said the biggest rows usually broke when he was on holiday.
So the biggest challenge may simply be - expect the unexpected.