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Tony Hall steps down: industry reaction

20 Jan 2020 
Tony Hall steps down: industry reaction

BBC director general Lord Tony Hall has today announced that he will be standing down this summer after seven years in the role. With the BBC already facing a difficult future, the news is significant. Here, media experts share their views.

Danny Donovan, Mediahub UK CEO

Tony Hall’s resignation from the BBC should prompt the broadcaster to re-evaluate its position. Over his seven-year tenure, the BBC has faced numerous challenges from funding cuts to questions over impartiality. But more than that, in that time the world has changed, the landscape has changed, the technology has changed and most importantly the viewer has changed, forever.

The BBC continue to create franchises with extraordinary magnetism at home and abroad such as Strictly Come Dancing, Dracula and Peaky Blinders. But new competition has arrived; companies for whom UK TV is just a tiny fragment of their operation; companies who use TV as a value add in order to achieve a far larger retail ambition; companies who are changing the ways people think about how they view and buy into TV programmes. Companies for whom the BBC programming budget would be a rounding error on a trillion dollar balance sheet.

So the BBC has become an underdog. A plucky Brit facing into the hurricane strength headwind of US capitalism.

Without a serious rethink, and starting to act more like an efficient business than a state funded Oxbridge project, they might find they completely lose their franchise with the British public, leaving them clinging only to a nostalgic, “we were the best once”, Rule Britannia fuelled last night of the proms bit of pomp and circumstance. That said, it worked for Boris!

Richard Pickering, Research Director, 2CV

Tony Hall’s departure is a chance for the BBC to regroup and reflect on its position in the market, and ultimately what its remit for the next Charter will be. In light of proliferation of streaming services for content, it’s unsurprising if UK consumers are left wondering what will happen to terrestrial TV (and their beloved Eastenders!).

The National Audit Office recently criticised the BBC for relying too heavily on its ageing brands, such as Doctor Who and Top Gear, but these are beloved programmes still watched by millions – not to mention the Doctor’s international appeal.

The BBC still produces world class entertainment, including factual programmes like Blue Planet and its brilliant recent adaptation of Dracula.

It shows that the BBC is still a hub for creativity that can engage the whole country, but streaming services are snapping at its heels with content we’re all guilty of binging.

The new Director General will need to be able to secure the funding to produce longer series that are more typical of US series and those on streaming services. At this point of change for the BBC, one big question in the next Director General’s inbox is how to balance the “inform, educate and entertain” remit in light of the challenge from streaming services.

Rowan Evans, Creative Director, Croud

The BBC remains at the forefront of Brand Britain, in an era when let's be honest our brand is taking a bit of a battering. From political chaos to a rather tumultuous time for our Royal Family, the UK needs something to get behind, and the BBC has always been that. It is a benchmark of not only creativity and impartiality, but Britishness. And thankfully, unlike some of our institutions, the BBC has shown its ability to move with the times.

As the latest DG Tony Hall hangs up his BBC hat, I think it's fair to say he leaves the broadcaster in pretty good shape. Content-wise, it may not be able to dial up an algorithm-fuelled playlist to suit each and every taste, but I believe the BBC is still the best possible media organisation for knowing what we need to see, need to know and need to understand.

And whether that comes from listening to the audience, or simply providing for them, it’s the kind of public service that is at the heart of the ‘Beeb’, and one that I hope we never lose.

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26 Feb 2020 

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