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BBC Newsnightmare: Opera chief brought in as new DG

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The BBC has brought in its one-time head of news to succeed George Entwistle as the Corporation's new director-general, after the previous incumbent lasted just 54 days in the job.

Tony Hall, who is currently the boss of the Royal Opera House, has been hired for the £450,000 per year gig, the BBC Trust confirmed in a statement today. However, his tenure will not begin until March next year.

In the meantime, Tim Davie remains as acting DG at the troubled Beeb.

Lord Hall, who currently serves as deputy chairman at Channel 4, was head of BBC News and Current Affairs from 1996 to 2001. But he wasn't on the shortlist for the DG job earlier this summer, after Mark Thompson confirmed he was leaving his eight-year-long stint in the post, because Hall was unavailable.

Described by the trust as "a digital pioneer, launching BBC News Online, as well as Radio 5 Live, BBC News 24 and BBC Parliament", Hall will be expected to come in and reinvigorate a bruised and greying Auntie, whose news operation has suffered from a string of massive disasters in recent years - BBC2's bungled Newsnight child abuse investigation into a "senior Tory from the Thatcher years" is only the latest.

That broadcast led to Entwistle's underdoing and the BBC Trust - keen to limit the damage done to the Beeb's reputation - said it would quickly hire a new hand to replace him.

"While there are still very serious questions to be answered by the on-going inquiries, it is in the interests of licence fee payers that the BBC now starts to refocus on its main purpose - making great programmes that audiences love and trust," said the trust's chairman Lord Patten.

He added that the broadcasting giant would "take a long, hard look at the way it operates".

Patten continued:

Tony Hall has been an insider and is a currently an outsider. As an ex-BBC man he understands how the Corporation's culture and behaviour make it, at its best, the greatest broadcaster in the world. And from his vantage point outside the BBC, he understands the sometimes justified criticisms of the Corporation - that it can be inward looking and on occasions too institutional.

Hall agreed by chiming in with: "It's been a difficult few weeks - but together we'll get through it."

The peer was the only person approached by the trust with an offer to take the DG gig. Patten explained that he hadn't been available during the previous round of interviews that eventually landed Entwistle the job. ®

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