George Entwistle, the next director-general of the BBC, is a highly respected BBC lifer. Apart from an initial stint as a journalist at Michael Heseltine’s Haymarket Magazines, he’s worked his way through a number of key posts at the BBC, largely in factual programming, and has taken on huge responsibilities, most recently as director of BBC Vision.
He is definitely a safe pair of hands.
But is he too entrenched in the Corporation, too much of a traditionalist and will he have enough political nous when confronted with Whitehall demands and the huge sea changes that broadcasters are experiencing.
Today’s Financial Times reports that analysts are pointing out that he has no corporate experience and little management experience. One media analyst, who asks not to be named, noted that Mr Entwistle had no great political links in his cv.
Nick Thomas, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media says, “The fears are that he is not enough of a digital bod to understand that for millions of its consumers, the BBC is now as much a provider of digital content as a broadcaster."
Thomas goes on to say: “The DG’s job now seems to be more political than ever, too. It’s all about managing up, working effectively (and forcefully) with Whitehall to fight
the BBC’s corner. Other candidates – such as Ofcom boss Ed Richards and BBC chief operating officer Caroline Thomson – seemed to have more experience in those circles.”
Others are dismayed that the post has once again gone to a man.
Answering questions about Entwistle’s qualifications for the post on Radio 4’s World at One today, BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said, “George showed us in his interview that he’s capable, as an insider, of standing back and seeing the changes that need to be made.”
The Trust has put creative excellence at the top of its list of priorities, while acknowledging the importance of technological changes and BBC Charter discussions. “The most important thing is to make even better programmes with less money around,” said Patten.