New DG George Entwistle puts programme makers first


George Entwistle: "The BBC must stand at the heart of creative endeavour"

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The BBC's new director general George Entwistle has said he will put programme makers and "outstanding creative originality" at the heart of the organisation.

In his first speech to staff since starting in the post on Monday, he said he felt "privileged" to lead the broadcaster.

But Mr Entwistle acknowledged criticism of the BBC and said "we can do better".

He revealed plans to change management as part of a "radical simplification".

Mr Entwistle announced that chief operating officer Caroline Thomson, who was a rival for the top job, would leave the BBC at the end of September.

The finance and operations divisions will then be merged into one business division.

"I intend to change the way we're led to put the emphasis where it belongs - on creative people doing creative things; on our audiences and the exceptional quality of work they deserve," he told staff.

Mr Entwistle said his focus on creativity could not be isolated from the BBC's financial challenges, with cuts of 16% already planned as part of the Delivering Quality First initiative.

George Entwistle wrote his first letter of complaint to the BBC at the age of 6 - when Tom and Jerry was replaced by the Budget.

Now he is tackling some of the BBC's more entrenched problems, such as too much bureaucracy and too few women presenters. He's slimming the management structure - closing the operations division and halving the size of the management board.

Creative people will be given more charge of their own destiny. If they save money, they will be allowed to keep some of it for their own programmes.

And within two years, there'll be further integration of radio, television and digital media, inspired by the success of the Olympics coverage which had seen the BBC working more closely together.

He told the Radio Times he'd also like to see more women's sport on the BBC - and more women presenters and experts.

He said he intended to involve front-line programme makers and content producers in making those savings, with the incentive that they would be able to put the money back into their output.

Mr Entwistle paid tribute to the BBC's Olympic coverage and said staff should aspire to recreate that atmosphere with other projects.

"Only the BBC can do things with the ambition, scale and quality that bring the whole nation together," he said.

Mr Entwistle also acknowledged problems within the structure of the BBC, including "internal competition, the duplication, the jockeying for position".

He continued: "And at its worst, the leaking, the briefing against other people and other departments - and the sheer waste of energy and money that results."

He told staff he hoped to lead the BBC in a way that "re-invokes the pride I believe we all felt on our first day".

Licence settlement

The next licence fee settlement will be a key issue for Mr Entwistle, with negotiations on the future cost of a TV licence due to start in 2015-16.

Appearing on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday, outgoing director general Mark Thompson said he believed the corporation should not face further budget cuts, as it was "getting very, very close to the edge".

However, looking ahead, Mr Entwistle said only one thing could guarantee the corporation's survival: "Creative output of such outstanding quality that the British licence fee payer simply refuses to do without the BBC."

He continued that the organisation could not argue for a renewed licence fee in 2017 unless output was of the "highest quality and our audiences love us for it".

Mr Entwistle, who was previously director of the BBC's Vision department, has worked at the corporation for almost 23 years.

In his first interview, with this week's Radio Times, he revealed his passion for the BBC had started early.

As an outraged six-year-old, he wrote a handwritten letter to the "Derector of the BBC" after Tom and Jerry was bumped off the schedule because coverage of the 1969 budget overran.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    The director general should not be telling programme makers what sort of 'atmosphere' they should be 'trying to recreate'. That's just moronic. What he seems to want is more content designed to chase ratings and reduce costs. That might seem sensible on your first day on the job, but is equally moronic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    Any chance of the BBC getting any revenue from those who watch it;s output on mobile devices and not just from those who watch the same programs on a TV.

    If somebody is willing to pay a margin of 40% to Apple whose profits then get secreted away offshore so they don't have to pay taxes on them even in the USA, then surely they can chip in some money to the BBC if they watch their output.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    1.More BBC produced stuff, less bought in.

    2.If ITV does some popular light entertainment well, let them. You don't need to compete.

    3.Stop republishing government press releases.

    4.Buy back all the R&D and transmitter network which you sold off to the private sector.

    5.Protect shortwave from RFI and the Internet from DRM.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    opinionated weather forcasters telling me its going to be a miserable day...
    miserable to who?
    i quite like a bit of drizzle, so stick to the facts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    "i am so glad i don't pay towards the BBC, paying £6 a month for netflicks and £4 a month for lovefilm is far better value."

    Although judging by the fact you're paying in £ and you're on here making your point it appears you're quite happy to use a service you can't be bothered to pay for!

  • Comment number 273.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    If you have never lived abroad you will not truly understand what a wonderful thing is the BBC and the overwhelming advantage of the license fee system as opposed to funding via advertising. I have lived all over this globe and TV is universally awful once you leave UK.

    The BBC is a gem without equal in the world. If he really does focus on quality rather than more reality tv, we will all win

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    Perhaps he could reform HYS to be able to debate contentious subjects?

    (Else give it a decent burial).

    Apologies if this has already been posted but havn't the time to read some 250 posts!

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    I support the idea that quality and creativity should be at the heart of the BBC, as long as this produces the interesting and informative programmes which presently characterise the best of the BBC's current output. The BBC should not be aiming at mass audiences but neither do we need a lurch towards obscure and elitist 'Arts Council' type programming which will have an audience of about 500.

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    To all those who claim not to have a TV, or to watch live-to-air transmissions on any medium, do you listen to BBC Radio, use the BBC Websites? Do you watch BBC catch-up services? If so, who do you think pays for it? The BBC TV licence fee payer! About time we re-introduced a radio licence fee and a PC fee to cover the freeloaders...

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    The best thing Mr E could do is to open a direct line of communication between the BBC and its viewers. At the moment all viewers can do is to speak to Capita (carefully disguised as BBC complaints) which is not the same as speaking to the corporation.
    As for the BBC Trust, this exists in theory only.
    A closer liaison between the BBC itself and its viewers could result in nothing but good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    Far too much 'opinion' from the B.B.C. through their reporters.
    Stick to the facts.....
    Perhaps then the News could be cut by half!

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    the bbc needs to do more "in house" ...own production .. own sound .. camera development .... it used to rule the world in terms of inovation , and as apple proved , inovation is protectable and saleable , should also start pay tv services in other countries (theyd make a mint) and this in turn keeps the fee down for us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    257 There is an irony in claiming the BBC should resist commercial attack. Did you see the Leveson inquiry coverage? It was a witchhunt, they covered far, far more closely and widely than any real interest could support. It was an attempt to hammer Sky. The only coverage more partisan was the "Strike Live" coverage, which was rapidly dropped when it became clear there was no public support.

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    Be creative, absolutely. Originality is what grabs viewers attention.

    Why then does the new, upcoming, heavily advertised drama "The Paradise" have "Downton Abbey In a Department Store" written all over it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    Will his appointment make any difference? He is not the man who chooses the programmes.

    Perhaps he will be able to encourage the replacement of cardboard cut out presenters with people who resemble the people one meets in the streets. (Ref. ageism and gender.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    The licence fee is a throwback to austerity post war Britain and trying to set up a Television transmitter network. I cant see it surviving (namely an enforced subscription to the BBC) unless it gets ring fenced purely for public service broadcasting and shared with say Channel 4. If BBC want to produce Top Gear and Strictly they will need to fund it elsewhere

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    I would gladly sell my soul and those of all my children and extended to pay for my BBC licence - I'd also throw in my house, car and live in poverty for the rest of my life if it meant continuing to help good old Auntie

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    Same old, same old.
    New person comes in..
    Need for management restructuring identified (what does that say about the previous job holder and his salary and benefits package versus his managerial effectiveness)
    Cue jobs for the boys/girls/politically correct.
    Massively generous redundancy payouts.
    All paid for by the licence payer.
    Trebles all round.

  • Comment number 259.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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