New BBC Boss Outlines Vision, Plans for British Public Broadcaster

In his first speech to staff, George Entwistle calls for higher creative quality, vows a "radical simplification" of management and emphasizes the importance of new digital and international strategies.


In his first speech in front of BBC staff as the British public broadcaster's new director general, George Entwistle on Tuesday unveiled some of his plans and visions.

He emphasized his commitment to quality programming, saying the BBC must deliver "world-class creativity." 

But he also promised a "radical simplification" of management. And he highlighted the need for new international and digital strategies to take the BBC into the future and ensure its health and success.

“Though our best is often brilliant – in some of our output, we do settle for less than we should," Entwistle emphasized. "So, I believe we owe our audiences a determined effort to raise the creative quality of what we do.”

STORY: New BBC Head Faces Range of Challenges, Opportunities

Further emphasizing the importance of quality content and his conviction that the company can improve it, Entwistle told his staff from the studio in the broadcaster's New Broadcasting House: "There's only one thing that will guarantee the future of the BBC - the continuing love and trust of our audiences." He added: "We must not stint in our efforts to improve the creative quality of what we produce."

The BBC posted highlights of Entwistle's speech online. 

“I intend to change the way we’re led to put the emphasis where it belongs – on creative people doing creative things, on our audiences and the exceptional quality of work they deserve," he also said in his prepared remarks.

Saying he felt "privileged" to lead the BBC, Entwistle cited the London 2012 Summer Olympics as an example of how good the BBC can be when its staff pulls together.

While organizational changes will be part of his leadership approach, he said "I guarantee I will do nothing, which puts at risk the radio services and TV channels our audiences love."

STORY: Google CEO Larry Page Tops MediaGuardian 100 U.K. Media Power List

In a first announcement that will reduce part of the broadcaster's bureaucracy, Entwistle said he plans to reduce the BBC's management board from 25 to 12 and announced the shutdown of the operations division.

“I’m reorganizing the BBC to group all the operational and finance functions in one business division under the chief financial officer," he explained. Caroline Thomson, the corporation's COO, who ran against Entwistle for the top post, will depart.

"It will be increasingly difficult in the years ahead to remain successful in the U.K. without success overseas too," Entwistle said in discussing the importance of being an international player in today's globalized industry.

Addressing his digital strategy, he said "we need to be ready to produce and create genuinely digital content for the first time." That will require some restructuring that brings different parts of the corporations together more closely, he explained, signaling he wants to merge or align more closely the company's radio, TV and digital divisions in the coming years. "To be ready to create and curate genuinely digital content, we will need to integrate" different disciplines, he said.

In comments that gave some insight into his management style, Entwistle said Tuesday: "I like working in an environment of creative confidence and respect where nothing is unsayable so long as you find the right way to say it." And he said: "My aim is to be accessible, to fix any nonsense I find."

Discussing the continued need for in-house production, he said the BBC's in-house production is a "vital mechanism" through which it can guarantee editorial standards and create content with commercial potential.


Twitter: @georgszalai