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January 20, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 8:50am

Tony Hall to step down as BBC director-general, says leaving was ‘hard decision’

By Freddy Mayhew

BBC director-general Lord Tony Hall will step down this summer after seven years at the head of the corporation.

It comes after the BBC has faced criticism over its coverage of last month’s general election, having failed to secure an interview with Boris Johnson for Andrew Neil, and its decision to cut free TV licences for over-75s.

The corporation has also come under fire over the issue of equal pay, losing an employment tribunal against Newswatch presenter Samira Ahmed earlier this month which could now open the door to more claims.

Lord Hall told staff in an email announcing his departure (in full below): “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.”

BBC values ‘never more relevant to society’

The BBC has an eleven-year charter, which runs until 2027. Lord Hall said that meant its “mission is secure”. He said there will be a mid-term review in spring 2022 and that one person should lead the BBC at both stages.

Lord Hall, joined the BBC as a news trainee in 1973 and spent 28-years in news, including five as BBC News chief executive from 1996 until 2001.

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He replaced George Entwistle as director-general in 2013, who resigned after 54 days in the post following the Jimmy Savile scandal and Lord McAlpine sexual abuse allegations.

Lord Hall said today the BBC’s values “have never been more relevant to the society we live in”.

He added: “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.”

‘Change has been tough at times’

He said the need for “constant change is ever-present” at the BBC, which he said had “changed hugely in recent years” and would continue to do so.

Under his leadership of late it has pushed for greater diversity, making a number of hires including a new director of creative diversity and head of workforce diversity.

In 2017 the corporation was forced to publish the salaries of top-earning on-air talent revealing pay disparities, notably between men and women, the fallout from which it is still dealing with.

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

The BBC Board will advertise for Lord Hall’s replacement within the next few weeks, both internally and externally, and will ultimately appoint his successor.

Hall led with ‘integrity and passion’, says BBC chairman

Lord Hall is paid £450,000 a year. As director general he is the operational and creative leader of the BBC, responsible for all staff working across TV, radio and online worldwide.

While at the BBC he launched Radio 5 Live, rolling-news channel BBC News 24, BBC News Online and BBC Parliament.

During his 28-year career in news at the BBC he worked as a senior producer for World at One, assistant editor of the Nine O’Clock News and output editor for Newsnight.

BBC chairman Sir David Clementi said: “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.”

Lord Hall was appointed a life peer as Baron Hall of Birkenhead in 2010. He sits on the crossbenches in the House of Lords.

Culture Secretary Baroness Nicky Morgan said: “I would like to thank Tony Hall for the service he has given to the BBC, including the last seven years as director general.

“He has made a huge contribution to public service broadcasting in his career… In this ever changing broadcast landscape the next director general of the BBC will need to build on Lord Hall’s success.”

Lord Hall will now take up the role of chairman of the board of Trustees of the National Gallery, which he has served on since November last year. He is a former chief executive of the Royal Opera House.

Tony Hall message to BBC 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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