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Scandal-hit BBC appoints Tony Hall new director general

The scandal-hit body appoints head of Royal Opera House as its new boss while ITV settles case with ex-Tory leader over sex abuse report

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 2:56am

The BBC appointed a former journalist who runs the Royal Opera House to lead the broadcaster yesterday after sex abuse scandals that shook public trust in one of Britain's most treasured institutions.

Tony Hall, a former head of BBC news division, was named weeks after the hapless George Entwistle resigned from the job - in a secret, emergency process aimed at restoring stability to the crisis-hit broadcaster. He is due to take up his post in early March 2013.

This comes as commercial television network ITV said it had paid out £125,000 (HK$1.5 million) to former Tory party treasurer Lord Alistair McAlpine who was wrongly linked to child sex abuse by one of its programmes and the BBC.

ITV apologised "unreservedly" to Lord McAlpine, who is at the centre of a row that felled the BBC's director-general, and said they had agreed to pay his legal costs on top of the £125,000 settlement.

Lord Patten, writing to BBC staff yesterday, said that Hall was "the right person to lead the BBC out of its current crisis and help rebuild public trust in the organisation" after an extraordinary period in which the broadcaster has been severely criticised for its handling of the Jimmy Savile child abuse scandal.

Hall, 61, was director of BBC news, and was a candidate for the top job in 1999 when Greg Dyke secured the position.

He went off to run the Royal Opera House for 11 years, taking over an organisation that was itself in crisis.

During his tenure, the Opera House tried to shed its elitist image by hosting televised public performances outdoors, in Trafalgar Square and elsewhere.

Patten said that Hall was "an insider and is 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 criticisms that are levelled at the corporation - both those that are justified and those that are not. But perhaps most importantly, given where we now find ourselves, his experience as a former BBC journalist will prove invaluable as the BBC looks to rebuild its reputation in this area."

He will be paid £450,000 a year - the same as his predecessor, but substantially below the sums paid to Mark Thompson, who left the BBC in September.

The BBC Trust said it took the unusual approach of making a direct approach to Hall and that he accepted without the broadcaster speaking to anybody else.

Hall did not apply for the job when it last became vacant, when Thompson left earlier this year, partly because at 61 he felt he was too old. Patten said that the accelerated recruitment process was justified in the interests of licence fee payers, with the chairman noting that "Tony Hall wasn't available" when Entwistle was appointed in July.

Hall has run the Opera House since April 2001 and had been telling close friends he was looking for a change while maintaining in public that he was "happy in his job" as speculation about his name swirled.

  • Lord Justice Leveson, who is overseeing the media-ethics inquiry, triggered by Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp's phone-hacking and bribery scandals, said his report will be published on November 29.

Additional reporting by Reuters, Bloomberg