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Tony Hall: Turn Around Guy

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TONY HALL
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Let me start off by saying that I've been on two boards with Tony Hall (can't bring myself to call him Lord Hall): one that he headed (Theatre Royal Stratford East) and the other - Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, joining when he had been CEO there for a very short time. I've seen him make a huge positive impact on both organisations. Believe me, anyone who can handle an opera diva in full strop can handle anything. Anything.

That's because Tony is essentially collegiate. He doesn't go off by himself, brooding in some dark inner recess of his mind, finally emerging to TELL you what to do. He likes people. And he listens. Coming to ROH from BBC News, where everything is evidence-based, to the world of opera and theatre, which is the direct opposite, had to be a steep learning curve. But he climbed it, triumphed and lived to tell the tale. ROH was a big beast barely able to breathe when he took the post.

The coupe de grace had been a documentary broadcast in the 90s that just about finished The House off in the eyes of the public. But Tony and his team got the place off life-support and gave it new life. Now it's the hottest major opera venue on the planet. He worked tirelessly for Theatre Royal Stratford East, too, helping to take it to its next stage. In short, Tony is a major turn-around guy. But he knows better than most of us that he really has his work cut out for him now. He may disagree with me, but the truth is that the BBC is another country. I'm personally not complaining, mind you. The Beeb has been extraordinarily supportive of me now and many writers and actors and directors.

But let's face it: there are places where the sun don't shine. Nobody knows what's going on and why it does. And is it Left-leaning? The Beeb can give the appearance of not being fair and balanced on a bad day. Not in its journalism, which is the gold-standard. I mean that you almost next to never see a drama for example from a centre-right point of view. Or a rightwing point of view, for that matter. I'm sure there's plenty of that work out there. So why isn't it on the BBC? I'd like to see that world, too.

Another thing. Does the BBC really have to try and leave everyone on the broadcasting landscape for dead? Does it need to go up hard gainst Sky, ITV, Channels 4 and 5? And how many cookery shows does a broadcaster really, really, really need? If BBC2 becomes another lifestyle channel, why do we need it at all? We've got lots of those elsewhere.

Trouble is, you and I have close to zilch opportunity to get anyone inside the BBC to even consider our ideas, our work, our viewpoint. Because, well, the public broadcaster is not really that open enough - outside of audience participation - to the public.

Tony Hall gets all this. So here's hoping that he very quickly cuts to the chase. That way we the people can be a bit of the BBC, too.

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