John Birt

Director-General 1992-2000

John Birt (Lord Birt of Liverpool, Sir John, 1944-) was Director-General from 1992 to 2000.

Birt's long career at London Weekend Television included producing World in Action and heading News and then Programmes. He joined the BBC in 1987 as Deputy Director-General with a remit to manage News and Current Affairs. He devised, with Michael Checkland, an internal market system, which which encouraged producers to choose between BBC suppliers and the outside market for their facilities.

Soon after he took over as Director-General he was severely criticised after it was revealed that he had joined the BBC as a freelance, his services contracted to the BBC through a personal company. He subsequently became a member of staff.

As Director-General from 1992 he oversaw the BBC's involvement with online and digital services and restructured further by separating broadcasting and commissioning. His reforms and management style were unpopular among staff, but he is credited with securing the BBC's future in the digital era with a favourable Charter and licence fee settlement.

He resigned to become the first Director-General since Lord Reith to sit in the Lords, where he sits as a cross-bencher. He has advised the Prime Minister on crime and the railways.