The British Broadcasting Corp. named Tony Hall, the head of the Royal Opera House who worked at the broadcaster for 28 years, as the next director general as it tries to recover from child sex-abuse scandals.
Hall replaces George Entwistle, who quit this month after a Nov. 2 BBC “Newsnight” program wrongly implied that a U.K. politician had molested a boy. Hall starts in early March and will be paid 450,000 pounds ($718,000) a year, the same salary Entwistle was awarded, the BBC Trust said today.
“As an ex-BBC man he understands how the corporation’s culture and behavior make it, at its best, the greatest broadcaster in the world,” BBC Trust Chairman Chris Patten said in a statement. “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.”
Patten earlier called for a “radical overhaul” of the corporation. Hall is rejoining the London-based BBC as the broadcaster is also investigating its missteps in handling allegations that television host Jimmy Savile, who died last year, may have been involved in the abuse of more than 450 people.
Two probes at the BBC are examining why a “Newsnight” program investigating Savile was canceled last year and are looking into the culture and practices of the broadcaster when Savile worked at the organization. The inquiries will also focus on the role of executives such as Mark Thompson, Entwistle’s predecessor. Thompson is now CEO of the New York Times Co.
Hall joined the BBC in 1973 as a news trainee, when Savile was hosting the Radio One Weekly show and two years before Savile’s “Jim’ll Fix It” TV program started.
Savile is accused of using his access to children on “Jim’ll Fix It” and his older “Top of the Pops” TV show to commit abuse. He is also accused of exploiting his power as a celebrity to molest people at hospitals and schools.
The BBC Trust’s board appointed Hall in a meeting this morning.
Hall was head of BBC News and Current Affairs from 1996 to 2001 and was responsible for introducing BBC News Online. He is currently deputy chairman of Channel 4.
Entwistle, who quit after less than two months on the job, was paid a full year’s salary plus costs. Shortly afterwards, News Director Helen Boaden and her deputy, Stephen Mitchell, stepped aside during investigations into the Savile case.
Alistair McAlpine, a former Tory party treasurer, won 185,000 pounds from the BBC last week after he was wrongly linked to child sex-abuse allegations on “Newsnight.” Today, he was awarded 125,000 pounds from commercial TV station ITV Plc after his name appeared on a list of accused pedophiles passed to Prime Minister David Cameron on air.
The settlement with ITV reflects the fact that the “defamatory incident” was aired after “Newsnight” had brought the matter into the public domain, McAlpine’s lawyers said today in a statement. McAlpine is pleased with the settlement, according to the statement.
McAlpine is now looking at legal action against Twitter users who tweeted and re-tweeted child abuse claims against him. The claims began circulating online after the BBC “Newsnight” program indirectly linked him to abuse at child-care homes in Wales in the 1970s and 1980s.
The BBC controls the most popular television and radio channels in the U.K. and is funded by license fees from TV owners in the country. Hall will be the 16th director general, acting as chief executive officer and editor-in-chief.
The appointment came after the BBC Trust approached Hall, who wasn’t available during the initial search for Thompson’s replacement four months ago, the company said in the statement.
“It’s been a difficult few weeks -- but together we’ll get through it,” Hall said in the statement. “This organization 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.”