Royal Opera House boss Tony Hall named BBC chief
LONDON, United Kingdom- Tony Hall, the chief executive of Britain's Royal Opera House, was Thursday named director-general of the BBC after his predecessor quit over the corporation's reporting of child sex abuse.
Hall has been given the job of guiding the world's largest public broadcaster through a major crisis sparked by allegations that one of its top stars, the late Jimmy Savile, was a serial child sex offender.
Hall, 61, joined the BBC as a trainee and rose through the ranks to become head of news between 1996 and 2001 before leaving to take charge of the prestigious Royal Opera House.
Chris Patten, the head of the BBC Trust which appoints the director-general, said 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," said Patten.
"And from his vantage point outside the BBC, he understands the sometimes justified criticisms of the corporation -- that it can be inward looking and on occasions too institutional."
Hall's predecessor George Entwistle dramatically resigned on November 10 over a botched report by the BBC's flagship current affairs programme Newsnight, which wrongly implicated a senior politician in child sex abuse.
Entwistle had been in the top job for just 54 days -- the shortest leadership in the organisation's 90-year history. He had spent most of that time under pressure over the BBC's response to the allegations about Savile, who died last year aged 84.
But it was the Newsnight investigation into unrelated allegations of child abuse at a Welsh children's home that finally claimed his job and forced two other top BBC executives to stand aside.
The Savile scandal has sparked three internal BBC probes and a major police investigation.
The BBC described Hall, currently deputy chairman of the commercial Channel 4 television station, as a "digital pioneer" who had launched the broadcaster's online service and 24-hour news channel.
He had joined the BBC as a news trainee in 1973 and held a series of production roles, including on Newsnight, before taking over as head of news.
The BBC said it had not approached any other candidates for the top job and that Hall had not applied last time it became available, when Entwistle's predecessor Mark Thompson left to become CEO of the New York Times.
The rapid recruitment process sees Hall appointed just 12 days after his predecessor quit, in sharp contrast to the usual lengthy rounds of interviews with various candidates for the top BBC post.
Patten defended the Trust's decision not to spend longer looking for a new leader, saying that Hall would "help the organisation quickly get back on an even keel".
Hall said in a statement: "This organisation is an incredibly important part of what makes the United Kingdom what it is. And of course it matters not just to people in this country -- but to tens of millions around the world too.
"It's been a difficult few weeks -- but together we'll get through it. I'm committed to ensuring our news services are the best in the world."
Hall, a life member of Britain's upper house of parliament, is expected to start in early March, with acting director-general Tim Davie remaining in the post until then.
The new director-general will earn £450,000 ($720,000, 560,000 euros) a year, the same salary as Entwistle.
Culture minister Maria Miller said Hall had "a very strong track record in successfully leading iconic organisations.
"It is important now that Tony Hall gets to grips quickly -- to provide the stability and certainty that the BBC needs, and restore public confidence," she said. - Agence-France Presse