23 August 2013 - 2:32pm | posted by | 0 comments

Edinburgh International TV Festival: What would Tony Hall do? Gatecrash the panel

Tony HallTony Hall

There was a surprise during a panel discussion at the TV festival called 'Tony Hall's Decisions' when the man under discussion turned up halfway through proceedings and offered his own analysis of the decisions he faces.

The slightly startled looking panellists barely added a further word as the new director general of the BBC charismatically held court before answering questions from the floor directed to him by the session's chair, John Sergeant.

Hall mounted a defence of executive pay at the BBC while conceding that he could understand staff anger at the six-figure payoffs given to those identified by former Newsnight journalist Liz MacKean as being part of the corporation's "officer class" who have treated severance payments as a "get rich quick scheme".

MacKean - whose spiked story on Jimmy Savile precipitated the crisis that eventually accounted for Hall's predecessor George Entwistle - also said she was still waiting for the apology she feels she's owed because of the way the BBC handled her story.

Earlier Alan Yentob mounted a defence of the BBC's light entertainment output and described the recommissioning of The Voice as vital because of the importance of ensuring the corporation retains the market share required to justify the licence fee. MacKean - freed from the obligation to toe the party line by voluntary redundancy in April - witheringly disagreed.

Tony Hall robustly defended the decision to broadcast an edition of Panorama that became mired in controversy when it emerged that six students from the London School of Economics had unwittingly provided a cover story for three of the programme's journalists on a trip to North Korea.

While Hall acknowledged that mistakes had been made, he said it was absolutely right to air the programme. This followed criticism from panellist Conor Burns MP who said he had been shocked that the corporation's news department could make such a glaring error so soon after the Newsnight debacle.

Hall took the opportunity to express his delight with the BBC's presence at the Edinburgh Festival and spoke enthusiastically about his ongoing effort to visit BBC departments across the UK.

The director general also acknowledged the importance of the BBC maintaining balanced coverage of next year's Independence Referendum in Scotland and identified the prominent role given to the Today programme's James Naughtie as evidence of a determination to ensure the debate receives the required attention.

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