It is the BBC’s new director-general’s first day on the job and he has set out his vision of the corporation in a company-wide email.
With the subject ‘The BBC’s best days lie ahead of us’, Tony Hall’s message looked to the future and posed the questions he thinks all BBC staff need to ask themselves. The eight questions also seem to be aware of a wider audience.
Two of the questions – ‘How can we build an ever more creative and dynamic organisation where the best creative talents want to work?’ and, ‘How can we act as a catalyst for creative and digital economies, a global champion for the UK and a source of future jobs?’ – position the BBC as a large employer in the UK’s economy. With the Licence Fee freeze still in place until 2016, this could have been seen as lobbying towards a renegotiation.
However, the final question: ‘How can we meet all of these ambitions within the means of the Licence Fee?’ points to compliance with the government. The question is: how can the BBC continue to be a large employer, improve the quality of its products and develop new technologies with its frozen fee? Maybe this is lobbying and Tony is making a point about the ever-shrinking value of the fee and the negative effect this will have on the corporation, and therefore the UK.
The final line of his communication: ‘There can be no complacency but I firmly believe with imagination and hard work the BBC’s best days lie ahead of us’, suggests a greater need for accountability and lays the way for cuts. Complacency is seen by many as a recent trait of the BBC, and Tony is trying to make it clear that this doesn’t have a place in the future. Another line in which he claims part of his job is to: ‘remove the distractions that get in the way of that ambition’, also points to cuts.
If you compare this message with George Entwistle’s first speech to BBC staff, the tone is unmistakably different. George suggested the BBC was doing very well and that his job was to continue building on something that was great; with hindsight this can be seen as the aforementioned complacency. There was also a large section explaining who he was and where he had come from. Tony doesn’t mention his past at all, which adds to the overall sense of looking to the future.
Mentioning the BBC’s centenary in 2022 is a bold step by Tony as he would have to be one of the longest serving DG’s to still be in charge at that point. It’s unlikely that he expects to be in the job then and so this comment is outlining his role as one of getting the BBC on the right tracks and taking it through some necessary changes so it is ready for the future.
So what can we expect?
Decisions will not be made rashly as that was what ultimately led to Entwistle’s demise. Tony talks about getting opinions from the staff, audiences and ‘partners’ to help him set out the BBC’s future ambitions. While nothing is yet certain, this is likely to be the BBC’s biggest era of change as it looks to distance itself from the mistakes of the past. Tony Hall is clearly confident that he is the man for the job and will be able to once more make the BBC a respected part of British culture.