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BBC TV boss George Entwistle nabs director general post

Ofcom's Ed Richards sent back to his spreadsheets

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George Entwistle, a BBC insider since 1989, was today appointed the corporation's new director general and will replace Mark Thompson.

Entwistle has the strongest programme-making background of the shortlisted hopefuls for the top job. He is currently in charge of TV - or "director of vision" as the BBC calls the post.

That means no prize for Ofcom technocrat Ed Richards: he was the one candidate with no media experience beyond his one-time role as corporate strategy wonk at the Beeb, although he had stretched the concept of media "plurality" in the UK in a BBC-friendly direction as the watchdog's boss.

Entwistle worked on TV news flagship Newsnight between 1994 and 2004 (before it truly dumbed down), squeezing in a two-year stint editing Tomorrow's World. He received criticism for Auntie's "moronic" coverage of the Jubilee flotilla.

He is likely to be DG during the next review of the TV licence fee, which will remain £145.50 a year for viewers until March 2017. The ethical dilemma, as ever, is continuing to levy a full charge on people who don't consume swaths of BBC output - obliging them to subsidise the often wealthier people who do (think Radio 4). Across some demographic segments, consumption of BBC media is almost zero.

Fixing this shouldn't be rocket science - it can be alleviated by raising much more revenue from media consumers globally, in English-speaking countries, and by charging for on-demand access to the archive. Currently, however, much of the expense of enforcing the TV poll tax collection is carried by the court system, which creates 142,000 new criminals a year.

A trawl through Entwistle's public expense claims may surprise critics. He prefers to travel by rail in cattle class; his receipts are considerably more modest than the lavish claims of his BBC executive peers. In 2009, though, he claimed £2.20 in expenses during a meeting on "Media Literacy". Entwistle was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire. These latter two facts may not be unrelated. ®

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