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'BBC' Picks Former News Chief as Director-General

By Robert Barr, Associated Press

LONDON -- The BBC has chosen a former head of its news division to lead the broadcaster through a "long, hard look" at itself as it struggles to recover from a scandal stemming from its coverage of child sex abuse.

Tony Hall, currently chief executive of the Royal Opera House, had been chosen as the new director-general beginning in March, Chris Patten, chairman of the governing BBC Trust, said Thursday.

Hall, 61, worked at the BBC for 28 years, including a decade as director of news before taking the Royal Opera post in 2001. He succeeds George Entwistle, who resigned on Nov. 10 after just 54 days as director-general.

The BBC has been shaken by controversy over a decision by its "Newsnight" program not to run a report that one of its former stars, Jimmy Savile, was a serial sexual abuser of young women.

Entwistle, who had stumbled in explaining why that happened, resigned after "Newsnight" broadcast a report which led to a prominent politician being falsely identified as a child abuser.

In a memo to staff, Patten said the BBC needed to restore its focus on "making great programs."

"In doing this, it will need to take a long, hard look at the way it operates and put in place the changes required to ensure it lives up to the standards that the public expects. Tony Hall is the right person to lead this," Patten said.

"As an ex-BBC man he understands how the corporation's culture and behavior make it, at its best, the greatest broadcaster in the world," he added. "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."

Until Hall arrives in March, the chief executive of BBC Worldwide, Tim Davie, will continue to serve as acting director-general.

Hall, who was appointed to the House of Lords two years ago, will be paid 450,000 pounds ($718,000) a year as director-general.

The BBC and Entwistle have been criticized for his final payoff of the same amount. He received a year's salary upon departure, twice as much as he was entitled to by contract.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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