Tony Hall is stepping down as BBC director general of the BBC this summer, but I’m not sure his departure is a pure exercise of free will.
A couple of days ago, a very well-placed source told me Hall’s preference was to stay until the corporation’s centenary in 2022, but that BBC’s chairman David Clementi was ‘on manoeuvres’ to replace him.
Whoever replaces Hall, it is certainly an appointment that will be of more than usual significance to the BBC’s future with the Prime Minister signalling wholesale long-term change in the way it is funded, starting with probable decriminalisation of non payment of licence fee.
In fact, the decision on who replaces Lord Hall as BBC DG is probably as important as who becomes the next Labour leader. Given the size of Boris Johnson’s majority, the task of holding the government to account will probably fall more on the media than on the parliamentary opposition. The new DG will also have to make a powerful public case for the importance of a poll-tax funded public service broadcaster, in the face of a sceptical government. Much is at stake.