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Scandal-hit BBC appoints new director general

Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 9:12pm

Tony Hall, the chief executive of the Royal Opera House and the BBC's former director of news, has been appointed the corporation's new director-general, the BBC announced Thursday.

His appointment comes after the resignation of George Entwistle earlier this month. He quit after a BBC report led to a former senior Conservative Party politician being wrongly accused of child abuse.

The BBC has also been embroiled in a scandal triggered by its handling of sex abuse allegations against a former BBC TV presenter, Jimmy Savile, who died last year.

Hall, who has been at the Royal Opera House since 2001, first joined the United Kingdom's public broadcaster in 1973 and held a variety of roles before serving as the BBC's head of news from 1996 to 2001.

In a statement issued by the BBC Trust, the governing body that appointed him, Hall said he believes "passionately" in the BBC.

"This organization is an incredibly important part of what makes the United Kingdom what it is. And of course it matters not just to people in this country -- but to tens of millions around the world, too," he is quoted as saying.

"It's been a difficult few weeks -- but together we'll get through it. I'm committed to ensuring our news services are the best in the world."

The BBC Trust's chairman, Chris Patten, said Hall's appointment had been unanimously agreed on by the trustees. he is expected to take up the post in early March, taking over from acting Director-General Tim Davie.

The BBC faces a number of inquiries into what went wrong over the Savile case and its reporting on historic sex abuse claims at children's homes in Wales.

In a statement issued by the BBC Trust, Patten said that while there are "still very serious questions to be answered" by those inquiries, the BBC must start to refocus on serving its audiences.

"In doing this it will need to take a long, hard look at the way it operates and put in place the changes required to ensure it lives up to the standards that the public expects. Tony Hall is the right person to lead this and I am delighted that he is taking on this role," he said.

Patten added that Hall's background in news will be "invaluable" as the BBC seeks to rebuild the trust dented by the recent scandals.

The furor erupted several weeks ago with the claims against Savile, who died last year but who police now believe sexually abused as many as 300 young women and girls, sometimes on BBC premises, in past decades. Two other men have been arrested in connection with the investigation.

Also in the past month, a BBC program looking into historic sex abuse allegations at children's homes in Wales in the 1970s and 1980s alleged that a Conservative, Thatcher-era politician, whom it did not name, had been among the children's abusers. Internet speculation over who that politician might be led to Alistair McAlpine being wrongly identified via Twitter.

His lawyers are planning multiple libel suits over the false claim.

The BBC has already agreed to pay McAlpine £185,000, or about $293,480. An internal investigation into its flawed "Newsnight" program concluded that its production was marked by a series of "unacceptable" failures.

ITV News, another UK broadcaster, also settled with McAlpine on Thursday and offered an "unreserved apology" after one of its presenters brandished a list of names pulled off the Internet in connection with the abuse claims while interviewing Prime Minister David Cameron.

It will pay him damages of £125,000 and cover his legal costs, ITV said in a written statement.

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