Royal Opera chief gets top job at scandal-hit BBC

Thu Nov 22, 2012 1:32pm EST
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By Stephen Addison and Natalie Huet

LONDON (Reuters) - The BBC on Thursday named a former journalist who runs the Royal Opera House to lead the broadcaster and restore public faith after sex abuse scandals tarnished the reputation of one of Britain's most treasured institutions.

Tony Hall, a former director of BBC news, will replace George Entwistle, who resigned as director-general this month after failing to get to grips with a crisis which threw the 90-year-old state-funded organization into turmoil.

Hall's immediate task will be to rebuild the confidence and image of a news organization buffeted by the fallout from a scandal centered on former BBC presenter Jimmy Savile, who died at 84 last year and has since been exposed as one of Britain's most prolific, predatory child abusers.

"I care passionately about the BBC, about what it can do, its program makers and the impact we have," Hall told reporters.

"It's one of those extraordinary organizations which is an absolutely essential part of the UK, of Britain, of who we are, but also has this incredible impact around the world, too."

Chris Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust which overseas the broadcaster and appoints its director-general, said Hall had been the only candidate approached, but denied there had been any external pressure to rush the appointment.

"I'm delighted that in moving fast we've also managed to find the out-and-out outstanding candidate," said Patten, who has warned that the future of the publicly-funded broadcaster was at risk unless it underwent radical reform.

"If we'd spent the next four months on this, you would have all been telling us we were off our trolleys and quite properly as well," he added.   Continued...

Chief executive Tony Hall of the Royal Opera House poses for a photograph after speaking to the media about Luciano Pavarotti, London September 6, 2007. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor