BBC Boss Quits Broadcaster Facing New Threats in Digital Era
Tony Hall, director general of the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC), pauses during the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) annual conference in London, U.K. (Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg)

BBC Boss Quits Broadcaster Facing New Threats in Digital Era

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(Bloomberg) -- The head of the British Broadcasting Corp. will leave later this year after defending the network against U.S. streaming giants and challenges to its taxpayer-funded business model.

Whoever succeeds Tony Hall will face financial pressures that are making it harder for the BBC to defend its place in the broadcasting industry. A funding review due in 2022 adds to the uncertainty.

Hall, who joined the BBC as a news trainee in 1973 and has been director-general for seven years, told staff the organization’s 11-year charter meant its mission is “secure” until 2027.

However, with the review coming up in 2022, “it must be right that the BBC has one person to lead it through both stages,” he wrote in an email.

While the BBC is often accused of bias for its political coverage -- from both the left and the right -- the intensity of criticism has grown during the country’s acrimonious divorce from the European Union.

Its unifying role as the nation’s broadcaster is also in question as on-demand platforms such as Netflix Inc. andAmazon.com Inc.’s Prime Video take a growing slice of viewers’ attention and young people turn in growing numbers to services like YouTube, Facebook and TikTok for their information and entertainment.

The BBC is also under pressure to fund free TV licenses for older users and been criticized by employees for gender pay disparities.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has questioned why it should continue to be supported by an annual fee paid by all viewing households, and given one of the biggest hints to date that funding of Britain’s main news provider could be upended.

“It’s going to be the most challenging time,” said Claire Enders, founder of media research firm Enders Analysis.

She said the strongest internal candidate to replace Hall was Tim Davie, chief executive officer of the BBC’s commercial arm ‘BBC Studios,’ while Channel 4 boss Alex Mahon and Confederation of British Industry leader Carolyn Fairbairn were also credible candidates.

Hall, whose achievements included launching a 24-hour news channel, last week set out plans to move at least two-thirds of the corporation’s staff outside of London by 2027, a response to criticism that it doesn’t do enough to reflect all parts of British society.

Hall will leave in mid-2020. Chairman David Clementi said in a statement the BBC will advertise the job within the next few weeks.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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