So there will be a new Director General (DG) at the BBC from next March: to much relief within the Corporation, the job recently vacated by George Entwistle after less than two months will go to Tony Hall, aka “Head Prefect”, who had previously served the organisation for 28 years and had been Director of News in the 1990s. His is widely regarded as a steadying influence, a safe pair of hands.
This, for many editors and proprietors within the Fourth Estate, and a variety of Beeb bashers elsewhere, cannot be allowed to pass, because a BBC taking a safe and steady course means less opportunities to smear it, and therefore less opportunities to fill papers with cheap copy on the back of the Corporation’s misfortune. So Hall has to be given the obligatory roughing up.
And pride of place in that campaign goes to the “Toff” smear, because Hall has been elevated to the peerage. But Hall is a crossbencher, so this one is difficult to make stick. It also doesn’t help that the Fourth Estate has its own roster of gong holders, such as Simon Jenkins and Max “Hitler” Hastings, as well as Viscount Rothermere, who owns the Daily Mail, yet cannot control the Vagina Monologue.
A more potentially fruitful avenue now being explored is that Hall once contributed an article to Marxism Today, although this was back in 1986. Here was the smoking gun, the proof that the BBC was in thrall to the rotten lefties. And that article was about nuclear power, so maybe Hall was also a closet greenie. Sadly, one look at the piece shows it to be less than controversial.
Hall’s article sticks very much to historical fact about the nuclear industry: he is spot on about the secrecy and misinformation – the cost of electricity generated by the civil nuclear programme was claimed for many years to be far lower than that for coal fired stations, except that it wasn’t – and also that the likes of Margaret Thatcher were enthusiastic about more nuclear power despite the drawbacks.
Those drawbacks included open-ended decommissioning bills, revelations that some of the second generation AGR stations had gone way over budget and would never perform as first advertised, the facts about the Windscale fire, and the fiasco over fuel reprocessing. And Hall was dead right that the Chernobyl accident made new nuclear construction far more of a challenge.
But mere facts will count for nothing, and nor will Hall’s deputy chairmanship of Channel 4 do him any good when the likes of Paul Dacre get their teeth into him. Fortunately for the Beeb, politicians on both sides of the Commons have praised Hall’s appointment and cited his formidable track record. But he will not get a honeymoon period: the first slip after his arrival will start the criticism going.
After all, where would papers be without Beeb bashing? No change there, then.