Entertainment & Arts

Tony Hall: 'High risk' period at the BBC

Lord Hall
Image caption Lord Hall made his comments in a speech to staff about the future of the BBC

The BBC is entering a period of "high risk" as it navigates the renewal of its Royal Charter, says Tony Hall.

Speaking to staff on Wednesday, the director general said there was a real danger the BBC could be "diminished" by negotiations with the government.

The charter dictates what the BBC does, how it is funded and how big it should be. It is renewed every 10 years.

Lord Hall has already said the BBC should be more "aggressive" in making the case for the licence fee.

On Wednesday, he asked staff to act as "ambassadors" for the broadcaster, "speaking up for the BBC against those who would bring it down".

He also called on programme-makers not to give critics any ammunition, by "spending every penny of the licence fee as if it were your own".

Analyis - David Silito, Media Correspondent

The language was stark. A moment of "high risk", the BBC in danger of being "diminished" and "stuck in an analogue cul-de-sac", unable to adapt to the rapid changes in digital media.

Tony Hall's speech expressed the fears within the corporation about what may happen in the forthcoming negotiations with the government over its next charter.

He said the BBC's independence would be under "colossal scrutiny" in the months to come and warned that some may use charter renewal to influence the way the BBC reports on politics in this election year. The BBC, he says, will always address complaints but will resist what he called "naked bullying".

The charter review will be carried out by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in the same year as a general election, and Lord Hall warned negotiations could become politicised.

"There may be some - I hope only a few - who try to use the impending charter review to influence our coverage of politics in this most sensitive of political years," he said. "We will never let that happen, because to do so would betray the public and the ideals of the BBC."

He added the journalists should report "without fear or favour".

"We will get things wrong," he said, "It's inevitable [but] we will reflect and put things right where we have.

"But we will never confuse justifiable complaints with naked bullying."

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