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BBC Director-General Tony Hall to step down in six months: broadcaster

BBC director general Tony Hall is stepping down this summer after seven years leading the British broadcaster.

Hall was appointed by the BBC in November 2012, but did not take up the role until April 2013, when he joined from the Royal Opera House.

A small circle of top BBC executives have known about his desire to leave for a number of weeks and it is understood Hall already has another role lined up. A search for his successor will begin in the coming weeks.

Many BBC insiders had expected Hall to remain in place until the BBC’s centenary in 2022, but in an email to staff on Monday, he said it was the right time to depart as the broadcaster prepares for talks with the British government over its operating agreement, known as its charter.

“I believe that an important part of leadership is putting the interests of the organization first,” he said. “The BBC has an 11-year charter — our mission is secure until 2027. But we also have a mid-term review process for the spring of 2022. As I said last week, we have to develop our ideas for both. And it must be right that the BBC has one person to lead it through both stages.”

He added: “Thanks to you and your great work I believe I’ll be leaving the BBC in a much stronger place than when I joined. It feels a very different organization — more innovative; more open; more inclusive; more efficient; more commercially aware. And a BBC that’s on cracking creative form.”

Hall also had a message for Boris Johnson’s Conservative government. The prime minister has issued thinly-veiled threats to abolish the BBC’s funding mechanism, the licence fee, and there has been ferocious briefing against the broadcaster from government sources, who took issue with its general election coverage last year.

The director general said a prosperous BBC is important for a post-Brexit Britain. “As our country enters its next chapter it needs a strong BBC, a BBC that can champion the nation’s creativity at home and abroad, and help play its part in bringing the UK together. In an era of fake news, we remain the gold standard of impartiality and truth. What the BBC is, and what it stands for, is precious for this country. We ignore that at our peril,” he said.

Hall was hired to steady the BBC after it was brought to its knees by allegations that former presenter Jimmy Savile sexually assaulted minors. The scandal meant Hall’s predecessor, George Entwistle, lasted just 54 days in the top job, the shortest tenure of any director general in the BBC’s near-100 year history.

Hall will be remembered as the director general who commercialized the BBC’s in-house production unit, now known as BBC Studios, and moved youth channel BBC3 online. He has also seen the BBC become embroiled in a bitter wrangle over equal pay, which peaked earlier this month when presenter Samira Ahmed won a landmark legal case against the corporation.

BBC chairman Sir David Clementi said: “Tony Hall is an inspirational creative leader, within the UK and around the globe, and the BBC has been lucky to have him as our director general for the last seven years. Tony has led the BBC with integrity and a passion for our values that is obvious to everyone who meets him. His reforms have shaped the BBC for the future and he will leave the BBC in the summer with our gratitude and our very best wishes.”

The BBC board will advertise for Hall’s replacement “within the next few weeks,” he added.

Read Tony Hall’s full email to staff:

Dear colleagues,

First of all, thank you for all your comments and feedback since I spoke to you from Cardiff last week. It was really important to me to set a clear direction for us, as well as celebrating some of the outstanding work you’re doing.

My reason for writing is however more personal. I wanted you to be the first to know that I will give my all to this organisation for the next six months, as I have done these last seven years. But in the summer I’ll step down as your Director-General.

It’s been such a hard decision for me. I love the BBC. I’m passionate about our values and the role we have in our country – and what we do globally too.

If I followed my heart I would genuinely never want to leave. However, I believe that an important part of leadership is putting the interests of the organisation first. The BBC has an eleven-year Charter – our mission is secure until 2027. But we also have a mid-term review process for the spring of 2022. As I said last week, we have to develop our ideas for both. And it must be right that the BBC has one person to lead it through both stages.

Over the next six months my priority, as always, will be to champion this great organisation and continue to direct our re-invention. There’s so much we can do to transform the creative industries around the UK still further and to project this country’s talent and ideas to the world.

Our Chairman, David Clementi, will begin the search for my successor and he’ll let you know how that will work shortly.

We’ll have plenty of time to talk in the months ahead but I’d like to share three thoughts with you today.

First, thanks to you and your great work I believe I’ll be leaving the BBC in a much stronger place than when I joined. It feels a very different organisation – more innovative; more open; more inclusive; more efficient; more commercially aware. And a BBC that’s on cracking creative form. You all have my thanks and admiration for the part you’ve played in that success.

Change has been tough at times – and, of course, there’s still more to do. But I believe our recent record of transformation stands comparison with virtually any other creative organisation in the world.

Second, without question, our values have never been more relevant to the society we live in. As our country enters its next chapter it needs a strong BBC, a BBC that can champion the nation’s creativity at home and abroad, and help play its part in bringing the UK together. In an era of fake news, we remain the gold standard of impartiality and truth. What the BBC is, and what it stands for, is precious for this country. We ignore that at our peril.

Finally, we must and can never stand still. We have to keep adapting, reforming and leading. Our values are timeless but the need for constant change is ever-present. The BBC has changed hugely in recent years – and that’s going to continue. We have to embrace the opportunities it brings.

We’ll be working flat out, across the Executive Committee, to implement the priorities I talked to you about last week, and to demonstrate why public service broadcasting – with the BBC at its heart – is an eternal idea.

Very best wishes,

Tony


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