BBC appoints Tony Hall as new DG: coverage and reaction

Key Points

  • Tony Hall, chief executive of the Royal Opera House, has been appointed as the next director general of the BBC and has spoken at a news conference at New Broadcasting House
  • BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said Lord Hall - who did not apply for the job but was approached directly - was "the right person to lead the BBC out of its current crisis".
  • Lord Hall, who was head of the BBC News operation from 1996 to 2001, says he is taking the job "because I care passionately" about the BBC

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    Just 12 days after the dramatic departure of George Entwistle, the BBC has named the man who is to be its next director general - Tony Hall, the chief executive of the Royal Opera House.

    Over the next few hours you will be able to follow the developments and reactions on this page, including a news conference at 15.30 GMT.


    Tony Hall - otherwise known as Lord Hall because he sits as a crossbench peer in the House of Lords - will succeed Mr Entwistle, whose 54 day tenure was the shortest time anyone has held the post of BBC director general.


    Lord Hall previously had a successful career at the BBC and was head of BBC News and Current Affairs from 1996 to 2001. During that period, BBC News Online, Radio 5 Live, BBC News 24 and BBC Parliament were all launched.

    He still has a strong presence in broadcasting, acting as deputy chairman for Channel 4.


    Announcing the appointment, BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said it was time for the BBC to refocus on "making great programmes" and added: "In doing this it will need to take a long, hard look at the way it operates and put in place the changes required to ensure it lives up to the standards that the public expects. Tony Hall is the right person to lead this and I am delighted that he is taking on this role. For its part I want to make sure that the Trust gives Tony Hall whatever help and support he needs to rebuild the BBC's management around him.

    "Tony Hall has been an insider and is a currently an outsider. As an ex-BBC man he understands how the Corporation's culture and behaviour make it, at its best, the greatest broadcaster in the world. And from his vantage point outside the BBC, he understands the sometimes justified criticisms of the Corporation - that it can be inward looking and on occasions too institutional."


    In his first statement since accepting the job, Lord Hall said: "I believe passionately in the BBC and that's why I have accepted Lord Patten's invitation to become director general.

    "This organisation is an incredibly important part of what makes the United Kingdom what it is. And of course it matters not just to people in this country - but to tens of millions around the world too. It's been a difficult few weeks, but together we'll get through it."


    The new man is due to take over the role - currently occupied by acting director general Tim Davie - in early March, on a salary of £450,000 a year.

    George Entwistle's pay-off of a year's salary at the same rate has caused much controversy over the past fortnight, with MPs on the Public Accounts Committee questioning BBC Trust members today.


    Lord Hall added: "I know from my first days here as a news trainee, to my time as head of news and current affairs, to my time now at the Royal Opera House, that I can't do it on my own. Having the right teams working together, sparking off each other, is key.

    "And I want to build a world class team to lead a world class BBC."


    Culture Secretary Maria Miller offered her best wishes to the new man, saying: "I congratulate Tony Hall on his appointment as director general, he has a very strong track record in successfully leading iconic organisations.

    "I am pleased the BBC Trust have appointed a new director general. It is important now that Tony Hall gets to grips quickly - to provide the stability and certainty that the BBC needs, and restore public confidence."


    Mrs Miller's shadow - Labour's Harriet Harman was equally welcoming - saying: "Tony Hall is an excellent choice as the new director general of the BBC, with experience that includes head of news at the BBC and leadership of the Royal Opera House, one of our great cultural institutions.

    "He is the right person to bring stability to the BBC in these difficult times and I look forward to working with him."


    In case you don't know what Lord Hall looks like, here is a picture of him being invested as a CBE in 2005.

    New BBC director general Tony Hall

    Lord Hall was made a CBE in 2005, and in 2010 was created a life peer with the title Baron Hall of Birkenhead. He sits on the crossbenches in the House of Lords - which means he is independent of any of the political parties.

    1315: Torin Douglas Media correspondent

    Tony Hall - Lord Hall of Birkenhead - had emerged in recent days as the clear favourite for the job of stabilising the BBC and leading it out of its current crisis.

    He is an outsider - as Lord Patten, the chairman of the BBC Trust, said he wanted - but he also worked at the BBC for many years, latterly as director of BBC News, where he launched Radio 5 live and the BBC News Channel.

    He is credited with helping turn round the Royal Opera House, which had been in crisis before he joined as chief executive, and also the Cultural Olympiad, which had been in similar difficulties.


    Lord Hall will be the 16th director general of the BBC. He joined the corporation as a news trainee in 1973, and during a 28-year career held roles including that of senior producer at The World At One on Radio 4, assistant editor of the Nine O'clock News, and output editor for Newsnight.


    Labour MP and former culture secretary - and former BBC man - Ben Bradshaw said Lord Hall was taking on a "big job". He said: "He has to begin to rebuild and restore public confidence and trust in the BBC, which has taken a real battering as a result of the scandals around Jimmy Savile and then the handling of the subsequent crises, but he's a very good calm operator.

    "He's a good motivator of people, he's a very good listener as well as a very good decision-taker. And his first priority in my view is to get a good team around him."


    The appointment was made following a direct approach from the BBC Trust to Lord Hall. The Trust did not approach any other candidates.

    Lord Hall did not apply for the position when it last became vacant, as a result of Mark Thompson's departure earlier this year. But he was said to be among the candidates in 1999 - when Mr Thompson's predecessor Greg Dyke got the job. We've reached way back into the archives and found his candidate profile from that time, complete with a picture of a younger-looking Lord Hall.

    Sir Christopher Meyer, former Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission

    tweets: Such an effusion of praise for Tony Hall, why didn't he succeed Mark Thompson in the first place?

    Richard Gosling

    tweets: The choice of Tony Hall as new DG of BBC is an inspired choice. Chris Patten has always risen to the top when under pressure.


    Veteran BBC broadcaster David Dimbleby, presenter of BBC One's Question Time and many a dramatic night of election night coverage, said the appointment would be welcomed by many at the corporation. He said: "I think it's a very good choice and a great relief for those of us who work for the BBC.

    "He knows the BBC and he's worked outside but, above all, he understands BBC journalism. He's a good public face for the BBC and I feel like I'm serving in the Royal Navy when the message came in, 'Winston is back'."

    Rachel Edmonds

    tweets: Congratulations to Tony Hall. To be missed at Covent Garden but sure to do the very best he can for the BBC. Good luck Lord Hall.


    Former BSkyB and ITV executive David Elstein is not convinced about the merits of the appointment. He said: "Tony's an excellent person, who was turned down for the job in 1999 when Greg Dyke was selected, and who couldn't be bothered to apply for the job last time, which is only eight months ago.

    "Moreover, [it] wasn't thought worthy of approaching him, being offered the job then. He's passed the BBC retirement age. I mean, it's just a sign of how hopeless the BBC trust and its chairman are."


    Mr Elstein drew attention to Lord Hall 's age. He is 61, which is 11 years older than George Entwistle - and a full 15 years older than Mark Thompson was when he took on the role.

    Dorcas Walters

    tweets: BIg loss to #ROH if you ask me, BBC are very lucky! BBC appoints Tony Hall as new director general via @guardian

    Graham Sharpe, from bookmakers William Hill

    tweets: New BBC DG Tony Hall was backed from 5/1 to Evens favourite over past 48 hours.


    Former BBC deputy director general Mark Byford welcomed Lord Hall's appointment. "He has huge ability in journalism with extraordinary courage and wise judgement," he said.

    "He's got formidable intellect, he's also worked outside the BBC at the Royal Opera House with an outstanding track record there, and recently done the cultural Olympics as a very collaborative chair. I think he's the ideal candidate for the moment, and I wish him all the very best."

    Ian Burrell, Media Editor for the Independent

    profiles Lord Hall: 'the arts grandee who ticks all the BBC boxes'


    Simon Robey, Royal Opera House board of trustees chairman, said: "I can think of nobody better able to bring stability back to the BBC. They see, as we do, his qualities of leadership and his depth of relevant experience.

    "Tony has been a truly distinguished chief executive of the Royal Opera House. He has been a tremendous and inspiring force for good. The ROH he will leave in March is very different to the one he took over in 2001."

    Justin Webb, Radio 4's Today presenter

    tweets: Fat lady has sung. Tony Hall appointment disaster for those of us who can't stand/understand opera. On notice?

    Miriam O'Reilly, former BBC Countryfile presenter

    tweets: Former colleagues of new BBC DG Tony Hall say he's 'honest and straightforward'.


    Lord Hall will have a fair bit of time between now and March to consider how he will carry out the "thorough, radical, structural overhaul" which BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten has demanded. Should he need any pointers, we canvassed some expert opinions in a Viewpoints piece last week.


    A prescient quote? Lord Hall was interviewed by the Daily Telegraph last year and said of his time at the BBC: "Obviously I would have loved to have become the DG, but life has a funny way of turning out."


    Former ITN chief executive Stewart Purvis believes Lord Hall will be fully aware of the challenge he is taking on. He said: "The fact that we believe he didn't apply first time around made him a very good candidate second time around, because he wasn't in any way damaged by the first time.

    "I would guess that perhaps the BBC Trust made it clear they would really like him to have the job - and being a BBC man at heart it was difficult to resist the temptation to come back and help at a difficult time."


    The Independent's Ian Burrell - who interviewed Lord Hall earlier this year at the Royal Opera House - has quickly put together a full profile of the man the paper calls " the arts grandee who ticks all the BBC boxes".

    He says: "Hall has demonstrated through his hugely energetic - and mostly scandal-free - tenure at the Royal Opera House that he still has the stamina for his new position. It is testimony to his love for the BBC that he was prepared to give up a job at Covent Garden that offered him an office overlooking the famous piazza and a working day spent in the company of divas, leading theatrical directors and prima ballerinas."

    Michael Crick, former Newsnight political editor

    tweets: Congrats to Tony Hall as new BBC DG, the third successive ex-Newsnight producer to get the job, and author of excellent book King Coal

    Stephen Fry

    tweets: I think Tony Hall is a really good DG choice, TBH. He's not a "process" man, he's behind the best of BBC's digital moves in the past. Hope!


    Royal Opera House music director Antonio Pappano said: "Tony has been the most wonderful advocate for both the Royal Opera House and opera more generally.

    "He's been a great friend and colleague and while this is a fantastic opportunity for him to return to the BBC, and I can think of no better person for the BBC, we will miss him hugely here."

    Dan Jarvis, Shadow Culture Minister for the Labour Party

    tweets: Tony Hall is a hugely impressive public servant and an excellent choice to lead the#BBC in challenging times

    Journalist, Steve Punter

    tweets: Lord Patten says Lord Hall is the best man to lead the #BBC out of its crisis. He doesn't start until March. Four more rudderless months


    This BBC News profile of Lord Hall will tell you everything you need to know about his educational background, his career at the BBC, the names of the two books he wrote in the 1980s - and his link to Jade Goody.


    Ever the news man, Lord Hall did his bit to put the Royal Opera House at the centre of attention during his time there - putting on novel ventures such as a 3D version of Bizet's Carmen and an opera about Anna Nicole Smith. Here's Eva Maria Westbroek in the lead role of the show that was a sell-out

    Eva Maria Westbroek as Anna Nicole Smith
    Adam Mills

    tweets: Have to say, very impressed with appointment of Tony Hall. Authoritative voice needed to direct organisation through to next Royal Charter.

    Jake Wallis Simon, Telegraph features writer

    tweets: My @Telegraph blog: Tony Hall: finally the BBC have got it right


    Bookmarker Coral said it had lost a fair bit of money as a result of Lord Hall's appointment. Coral spokesman Gary Burton said: "He wasn't quoted in our betting until the middle of the week, and then after seeing a constant flow of cash in our London betting shops throughout Thursday morning, we decided to suspend the betting. We lost money, but it could have been a lot worse."

    Most bookmakers had Lord Hall priced as an odds-on favourite for the job by yesterday, ahead of the three other leading candidates - Ofcom chief Ed Richards, former BBC chief operating officer Caroline Thomson and the man currently standing in as acting director general, Tim Davie.


    Commons public accounts committee chair Margaret Hodge believes one of Lord Hall's priorities will be to rein in spending, on senior management pay and severance packages at the corporation. She said: "From the hearings we have had with the BBC, there are really important issues that have to be sorted out around the managers, and the way in which management is rewarded at the top of the BBC."

    Jeanne Whalen, Wall Street Journal reporter

    writes: Tony Hall to Take Helm at Scandal-Shaken BBC


    So what was Lord Hall's last contribution to BBC output? It was actually earlier this year when he chaired a judging panel to decide who were the 60 most influential people of the current Queen's reign - for a Radio 4 series called The New Elizabethans. You can check who is on the list here and find links to all 60 episodes if you have a few spare hours.

    Charlie Beckett, journalist and director of media think tank Polis

    tweets: I said some time ago that BBC needed a new Birt with outside view as DG - Tony Hall is as close as you could get


    Former BBC chairman Sir Christopher Bland described the appointment of Lord Hall as "inspired". He said: "It shows Chris Patten and the Trust in a very good light. They said it would take weeks not months, it's actually taken days not weeks - and they've had the sense to dispense with due process in order to get a really outstanding candidate.

    "He's absolutely the right man for the moment."


    Peter Snow, who was a colleague of Lord Hall when the new director general was output editor on Newsnight, is being interviewed live on the BBC News Channel and is fondly recalling the days when he used to call the BBC's next leader "young Tony".


    Asked how he felt about the appointment of his former colleague, Peter Snow said: "I leapt out of my chair with excitement."


    Peter Snow added: "He's tough, he's very approachable and accessible, easy to get on with but he's tough, he's a rigorous journalist too.

    "Here's a guy who's been the top journalist in many ways in the BBC, back when he was director of news - and now he's done an incredible job at the Royal Opera House, putting it back on its feet again after the shambles it was in back in the year 2000 or so when he went - so I think he's a terrific appointment."


    Of course, Lord Hall's departure from his job at the Royal Opera House leaves a position that will need to be filled there. The chairman of its trustees, Simon Robey, said the search for a "worthy successor" would begin immediately.


    Lots of comments about the new appointment being made by readers on our main story. The one which is currently most highly-rated by fellow contributors is one from "Phil" which reads as follows:

    Dear BBC, Just make sure he can be fired for less than a million should he prove incompetent, please.

    Kind Regards,

    A Licence Fee Payer


    Commons culture media and sport committee chairman John Whittingdale thinks the BBC Trust was sensible in appointing Lord Hall quickly, but questioned whether he would be able to deal with structural reforms at the corporation.

    He said: "The area where there does need to be strong leadership is in streamlining and getting to grips with the bureaucracy.

    "That, possibly, is an area where Tony Hall doesn't have experience and there might have been a case for somebody with more external management experience."

    Vernon Russell in Devon

    emails: The BBC have not gone through any kind of democratic process here involving one of the world's greatest iconic democratic institutions. This is a panic moment because there is no acceptable reason for such lack of transparency in the selection process, especially after all the sorry history behind this. Patton will most definitely need to fall on his sword right now.


    Media commentator Professor Roy Greenslade believes Lord Hall is a wise appointment. He said: "He's a rare combination: someone who rose very high at the BBC, but who's also done well outside it.

    "I think he covers both essential facets of what you need in a director general. He has news experience - which will be essential to clean up this Newsnight mess - and he has business experience at the Royal Opera House."

    Simon Menashy

    tweets: So we have a new #BBC DG: Tony Hall, ex-Royal Opera House chief. Not bad - bit establishment, but ROH has been pretty innovative recently

    Stephen Watson

    tweets: Worked with Tony Hall in my first job at the BBC in Lime Grove, when he ran news. He's a great choice for new BBC DG.

    1519: Breaking News

    Lord Hall - the next director general of the BBC - walks into New Broadcasting House in central London with BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten, ahead of a news conference scheduled to start in about 15 minutes.

    Old Holborn

    tweets: Tony Hall already gets a BBC pension of £82K a year. Has done for the last 10 years (page 52)


    Lord Hall joined the board of the British Council in 2008. Its chairman Sir Vernon Ellis describes him as "a man who can assess the situation quickly, form consensus, set an action plan and get to it."

    He said of the BBC: "That's what they need now and they've gone to it quickly and they've gone in my view to a very good man to do it."

    Sunder Katwala

    tweets: Tony Hall good appointment to run BBC. Did anyone predict it? Secret process a bad thing, but a plausible case for exceptional circs?

    Grace Huber

    tweets: And still no women. Whilst encouraging for art organisations that Tony Hall has been appointed BBC DG, the continual male bias is wrong.


    BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten and the BBC's new director general Lord Hall begin a news conference at New Broadcasting House.


    Opening the news conference, Lord Patten says he's "delighted" that Lord Hall will spearhead the task of rebuilding trust in BBC journalism, which he says has "taken a hit" in the past few months.


    Lord Patten continues: "Tony has a formidable reputation, first of all in almost three decades at the BBC. He's had an equally distinguished record as leader of one of the great cultural organisations in the UK."


    Lord Patten says this is a "new start for a great British institution".

    Joy Johnson

    tweets: #bbc Lord Patten extolling the virtues rightly of Tony Hall yet he sounds remarkably sombre.


    Lord Hall says it "takes a lot" to drag him away from the Royal Opera House, but he believes "passionately" in the BBC. "I am absolutely committed to our news operation as a world-beater," he says.

    Linda Willis

    writes on the BBC News Facebook page: Nice to see that the new Director General - from the Royal Opera House has a chance of being 'in touch' with most Licence payers! How about we get a chance to vote for the Director General in future, as we all pay the salaries of both him, and all who work for the BBC.


    Lord Hall says he "wants to build a world-class team for this world-class organisation". He says he wants the "right team in place, working off each other, sparking off each other".


    Lord Hall asks the gathered journalists to forgive him but he has an important first task - he plans to go immediately around New Broadcasting House and talk to some of the staff. "I want to talk and I want to listen," he says.

    Alastair Campbell, former spokesman for Tony Blair

    tweets: At least Tony Hall doesn't have his hands in his pockets. Patten looks a shambles and sounds like he's speaking at a funeral. As for the set


    That didn't take long. Lord Hall walks down the stairs into the newsroom in the basement of New Broadcasting House. He stops first to speak to members of the radio news desk team.

    Jay P Allen

    tweets: Never heard of the BBC's new DG Tony Hall, but seems an impressive man judging by his CV.


    The new director general is now speaking to staff on this very website, seeing how coverage of his own appointment is being covered.

    Alan Fisher, Al Jazeera English Senior Correspondent

    tweets: Smart move by the BBC to appoint Tony Hall as the new DG. Pity he won't be in charge until March


    Lord Patten is now taking questions in the news conference, while Lord Hall is a floor below, continuing his tour of the newsroom. As the new director general said before leaving the conference, he would like to be given a few weeks before giving the media his further thoughts on how he will tackle the job.

    Matt Packer

    tweets: Impressive 1st appearance by new BBC boss Tony Hall - not just a safe pair of hands, but an active enthusiast for the organisation.

    Oliver Stirling

    tweets: I'm quite optimistic about Tony Hall. He sounded like someone who knows what to do, not just another bland exec. #creativity #bbc #bbcdg


    Lord Patten confirms that Lord Hall was approached last time it was looking for possible candidates to be director general. "When we talked at that stage he was involved in the Cultural Olympiad. He said he'd loved his time at the BBC but maybe a younger person should do the job. Clearly by this November things had changed substantially."


    Lord Patten says he is "comfortable with the process" by which Lord Hall was appointed and is happy to defend the fact that he was the only person approached for the job.

    "We had a process with Tony where we interviewed him and he interviewed us," he says. "If you appoint the outstanding candidate it does seem that arguments about the process are somewhat by and by."


    Lord Patten says he is "very comfortable" to defend the speedy appointment of Lord Hall - just 12 days after the departure of George Entwistle. "If we'd spent the next four months doing this you would all have been telling us we were off our trolleys," he says.


    Lord Patten is asked a final question about how he plans to "cut through" the bureaucracy at the BBC. He replies: "I'm sure Tony Hall will have a lot of thoughts on how best to do that."


    comments on the BBC News website: Just another member of the old boys network. When will BBC get to root of the problem. Flush out the home counties old boys gang and get true British representation? Put a Scotsman or Scotswoman in charge, then we will begin to see real, positive change at BBC, but not until!

    Stephen of Woking

    comments on the BBC News website: I no longer trust the BBC Trust. This is nothing personal against Tony Hall but the quite bizarre opaque processes. If we can have directly elected Police Commissioners who can hire and fire Chief Constables - why not directly elected members of the BBC Trust who can hire and fire the DG? That would be real accountability to the Licence Fee payers


    comments on the BBC News website: Panic choice, another insider well accustomed to BBC culture and politics. With his finger on the pulse of ordinary people from the top of the Royal Opera House! Generously accepting a vast pay package many multiples too big, (a quarter would be plenty) and no doubt big pay off conditions if it goes wrong!


    comments of the BBC News website: I never believed the problems were the fault of the BBC rather the faults of some who were employed in it. I reckon Lord Hall is the man to sort the problem but only if he clears the Augean stables of those who care more about their own careers and celebrity than they do about the BBC and license payers.


    Here's a picture of new BBC director general Lord Hall arriving at New Broadcasting House with BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten.

    Chris Patten and Lord Hall arriving at BBC
    Michele Grant

    tweets: At last. Back to what the #BBC is for. #tonyhall always was a class act. This is the turning point public service broadcasting needs.


    The Daily Telegraph points its readers towards an interview it did with Lord Hall last year, in which he firmly backed the BBC's decision to move thousands of its staff to a new northern base in Salford. "I think it's absolutely the right thing to do. People's attitudes towards the North are wrong. The thought of being able to work there with all those assets is terrific."

    Agnus Jumah

    tweets: I like the thinking behind #tonyhall appt. He knows the #bbc & all its issues but can bring a 'fresh' pair of eyes. #leadership #strategy

    Surrey Golfer

    tweets: If this one doesn't work Patten is toast #TonyHall

    Helen Tweedy

    tweets: #TonyHall: a genuinely great man taking on a nigh-on impossible job as #BBC DG. Here's hoping people give him the opportunity to do it well.


    The Guardian's chief arts writer Charlotte Higgins says Lord Hall's success in transforming the Royal Opera House "a deeply troubled organisation to a well-oiled machine" is a good omen for the BBC.

    She adds in a blog: "Genial and soft-spoken, his voice hinting at his Birkenhead upbringing, Hall, 61, is an unflappable figure: thoughtful, polite, clear-headed reassuring. His temperament has stood him in good stead in an environment of big egos and will no doubt do so at the BBC."

    1646: Bob McKerrow

    tweets: From mountain tops to Amazon jungles & frontline conflicts, the BBC has been my news lifeline. Delighted Tony Hall a talent spotter at helm.


    We're wrapping up our live coverage for the day. Here's a final picture of the BBC's new boss with the man who appointed him. Lord Hall will be back in March to take over from acting director general Tim Davie - but it is likely we will hear plenty about his vision for the BBC between now and then.

    Lord Hall at BBC news conference

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