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.
- John ReithFirst Director-General, 1922-1938
- FW OgilvieSecond Director-General 1938-1942
- Cecil GravesJoint Director-General 1942-1943
- RW FootJoint Director-General 1942-1943, Fourth Director-General 1943-1944
- William HaleyFifth Director-General 1944-1952
- Ian JacobSixth Director-General 1952-1959
- Hugh Carleton-GreeneSeventh Director-General 1960-1969
- Charles CurranEighth Director-General 1969-1977
- Ian TrethowanNinth Director-General 1977-1982
- Alasdair MilneTenth Director-General 1982-1987
- Michael ChecklandEleventh Director-General 1987-1992
- John BirtTwelfth Director-General 1992-2000
- Greg DykeThirteenth Director-General 2000-2004
- Mark ThompsonFourteenth Director-General 2004-2012
- George EntwistleFifteenth Director-General 2012
- Tony HallSixteenth Director-General 2013-2020
- Tim DavieSeventeenth Director-General 2020-