“Tony Hall is an inspirational creative leader, within the UK and around the globe, and the BBC has been lucky to have him as our Director-General for the last seven years,” BBC chairman Sir David Clementi said in a statement.
“Tony has led the BBC with integrity and a passion for our values that is obvious to everyone who meets him. His reforms have shaped the BBC for the future and he will leave the BBC in the summer with our gratitude and our very best wishes.”
Clementi said that the BBC Board would publish a job description and advertise the position both internally and externally.
Hall’s departure comes at a time when the BBC has been in the eye of a political storm in recent weeks, with the annual licence fee of £154.50 ($200.70) per U.K. household that funds the public broadcaster re-emerging as an issue.
In early December, during his re-election campaign, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that while he wasn’t planning to get rid of license fees, he was “certainly looking at it” and questioned whether the license fee-centric approach to funding “makes sense” in the long term, given that other media organisations fund themselves.
The BBC’s royal charter guarantees the fee till 2027, after which parliament can debate it, but the amount of the fee can be discussed from 2022 onwards. On Jan. 12, writing in the Financial Times, Lord Hall acknowledged facing funding pressures at a time when global players are investing in content in the billions, but defended the fee model.
“The BBC’s formula for the U.K.’s creative success lies in being paid for and owned by the British public,” Hall wrote. “The universality of the license fee guarantees our commitment to creativity and risk-taking.”
Non-payment of the license fee is currently a criminal offence and the BBC has prosecuted thousands of people for defaulting. In mid-December, Johnson called for a review of the process, to consider decriminalising non-payment.
Meanwhile, Damian Collins a Member of Parliament from the ruling Conservative party, who has served on several committees at regulatory body Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, tweeted on Monday: “This is a pivotal time for the BBC when it needs to both deliver value for license fee payers and meet the challenge of the new platforms like Netflix. We should thank Tony Hall for his service and the @CommonsCMS will question his successor on their strategy for the BBC’s future.”
Hall rejoined the BBC as Director-General in 2012 from the Royal Opera House where he was chief executive from 2001. An old BBC hand, he joined the corporation as a news trainee in 1973 and over the next 28 years he held several roles including senior producer at World at One, assistant editor of the Nine O’Clock News and output editor for Newsnight, before assuming charge as chief executive of BBC News from 1996 to 2001.
He was responsible for launching Radio 5 Live, BBC News 24, BBC News Online and BBC Parliament.
He was formerly deputy chairman of Channel 4 Television and he is a trustee of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Foundation Years Trust. In addition, he was the founding chair of Creative & Cultural Skills, chairman of the Musical and Dance Scheme, chair of Stratford East Theatre and chair of the Cultural Olympiad Committee and a member of the London Organising Committee for the 2012 Olympic games.
Hall was appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2005 and in 2010 was created a life peer with the title Baron Hall of Birkenhead.
The BBC director general position is both chief executive officer and editor-in-chief at the broadcaster, responsible for a global workforce running services across television, radio and online.
In an email to all BBC staff, Hall wrote:
“It’s been such a hard decision for me. I love the BBC. I’m passionate about our values and the role we have in our country – and what we do globally too. If I followed my heart I would genuinely never want to leave. However, I believe that an important part of leadership is putting the interests of the organisation first. The BBC has an eleven-year Charter – our mission is secure until 2027.
“But we also have a mid-term review process for the spring of 2022. As I said last week, we have to develop our ideas for both. And it must be right that the BBC has one person to lead it through both stages. Over the next six months my priority, as always, will be to champion this great organisation and continue to direct our re-invention. There’s so much we can do to transform the creative industries around the UK still further and to project this country’s talent and ideas to the world.
“Our Chairman, David Clementi, will begin the search for my successor and he’ll let you know how that will work shortly. We’ll have plenty of time to talk in the months ahead but I’d like to share three thoughts with you today.
“First, thanks to you and your great work I believe I’ll be leaving the BBC in a much stronger place than when I joined. It feels a very different organization – more innovative; more open; more inclusive; more efficient; more commercially aware. And a BBC that’s on cracking creative form. You all have my thanks and admiration for the part you’ve played in that success.
“Change has been tough at times – and, of course, there’s still more to do. But I believe our recent record of transformation stands comparison with virtually any other creative organization in the world.
“Second, without question, our values have never been more relevant to the society we live in. As our country enters its next chapter it needs a strong BBC, a BBC that can champion the nation’s creativity at home and abroad, and help play its part in bringing the U.K. together. In an era of fake news, we remain the gold standard of impartiality and truth. What the BBC is, and what it stands for, is precious for this country. We ignore that at our peril.
“Finally, we must and can never stand still. We have to keep adapting, reforming and leading. Our values are timeless but the need for constant change is ever-present. The BBC has changed hugely in recent years – and that’s going to continue. We have to embrace the opportunities it brings.
“We’ll be working flat out, across the Executive Committee, to implement the priorities I talked to you about last week, and to demonstrate why public service broadcasting – with the BBC at its heart – is an eternal idea.”