George Entwistle becomes new BBC director general

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

George Entwistle became the new Director-General of the BBC Monday. He replaces Mark Thompson, who had held the position since 2004.

On the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Thompson said Sunday the corporation was "getting very, very close to the edge" following recent sixteen per cent real-terms budget reductions. "When you look around the operation, it's very hard to see what more you can cut," he said.

Negotiations about the UK's licence fee are a prominent issue for Entwistle to deal with between 2015–2016. The licence fee in the country currently stands at £145.50 (about US$236 or 181) per house. Two years ago, Thompson froze this fee for six years, causing BBC funding to decrease by sixteen per cent in real terms.

Thompson is due in November to become the chief executive officer of The New York Times Company.

Entwistle is a former director of BBC Vision, thereby being responsible for the television output of the corporation.

"There's no question that we've seen over the last eight years, not just with the BBC but with the whole of public life, a real change in attitudes to these things [re licence fees], and we've tried to respond to it," said Entwistle. "I think the BBC will continue to wrestle with that challenge. How do you get the best sports rights, the best presenters, and the best creative leaders, and do that in a way that is acceptable to the public."

The salary of Entwistle, who is scheduled to meet with programme creators and staff at the BBC this week, will reportedly be £450,000 (US$730,000 or €560,000), considerably less than that of Thompson who, in his final year, made £622,000 (US$1,009,000 or €773,000). While he was in office, Thompson's salary dropped by approximately a quarter.

"I think [Entwistle] cares deeply about the BBC", said Michael Grade, once chairman of the BBC. He further told BBC Radio 5 Live's Stephen Nolan: "I think he's intelligent enough to know how difficult the job is — some would say the job is like being Prime Minister; it's almost impossible. But I think his whole life has been a preparation for this and I think he will carry the respect of the staff because editorially he's accomplished. I think he'll be a huge success."

When the decision was announced to appoint Entwistle in July, Chris Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, said of him: "His experience of making and delivering great programmes that audiences love — built up through many years of working for the Corporation — will prove invaluable as he and his team work to ensure the BBC remains the greatest broadcaster in the world."