Entertainment & Arts

BBC director general Tony Hall 'confident' about future

Media captionTony Hall: "I really believe that with imagination and real commitment the best years for the BBC are yet to come"

Tony Hall has started his first day as director general of the BBC, saying he is confident about the future of the corporation.

He said the BBC's role "is even more important now" than when he first joined it "many decades ago".

Lord Hall returns to the corporation in the wake of the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal, which led to the resignation of his predecessor George Entwistle.

He said the BBC was "learning the lessons" from recent "difficult times".

"We are now winning back trust, something which will always be the most precious commodity for our organisation," he told staff in an email, adding: "We must never take it for granted."

Among the challenges facing Lord Hall, who has been chief executive of the Royal Opera House for the past 12 years, is a dispute over jobs and budget cuts.

When asked by Sky News whether the BBC needed more funding, the director general said: "I don't know the answer to that".

"I think it would be a mistake to reopen any negotiations about money at the moment because the economy and people are going through some very hard times," he added.

Admitting the "very real sense of the responsibility that comes with the role", he said he would enable staff "to do the best work of your lives".

He also pledged to "remove the distractions that get in the way of that ambition".

"The BBC sets incredibly high standards. At our best we provide a service like no other," he said. "Our challenge is to perform at our best all of the time."

In his interview with Sky News, he defended Eddie Mair's questioning of the London mayor, Boris Johnson, in which Mair had called the mayor a "nasty piece of work".

"I think Eddie Mair was a proper and tough interview," he said. "People expect that when they go to be interviewed on the BBC."

In the coming weeks, Lord Hall added that he would set out his plans for shaping the future of the BBC as it moves towards its centenary in 2022.

"We will need to make the most compelling case possible by listening to our audiences and partners, and building on our many strengths," he said.

Media captionLord Hall joined the BBC as a news trainee in 1973

A former chief executive of BBC news and current affairs, he is believed to have been on the shortlist to become director general in 1999, but was beaten to the post by Greg Dyke.

Lord Hall's appointment follows last autumn's Savile scandal, which led to a crisis in the BBC's leadership and journalism.

BBC media correspondent Torin Douglas said further revelations about past malpractice at the corporation were likely to emerge.

The Dame Janet Smith Review, which is examining the culture and practices within the BBC during Savile's time, has heard from hundreds of witnesses and will report later in the year.

Lord Hall must also tackle a dispute over cuts, which unions claim have led to compulsory redundancies, unacceptable workloads and bullying.

Media captionTony Hall is "the right man to restore confidence and trust" at the BBC, says former BBC chairman Michael Grade.

Last Thursday, members of the National Union of Journalists and Bectu staged a 12-hour strike, affecting programmes including news bulletins.

But Lord Hall will also look to the BBC's future amid rapid technological change and growing competition.

He has said he is building a management team to "deliver a creative vision that will define the BBC and public service broadcasting for the next decade".

He has already appointed former Labour Culture Secretary James Purnell as director of strategy and digital.

One of Lord Hall's first tasks will be to appoint a new director of news and a director of television.

Lord Hall joined the BBC as a news trainee in 1973 and during his 28 year career at the corporation oversaw the launch of Radio 5 live, BBC News 24, the BBC News website and BBC Parliament.

His time at the Royal Opera House saw access to performances widened through nationwide big screen relays, the introduction of special low-price ticket schemes and the purchase of a DVD company, Opus Arte, to distribute recordings globally.

He was made Baron Hall of Birkenhead in 2010.

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