Lord Hall criticises BBC for ‘catch out’ political journalism

Outgoing BBC Director-General Lord Tony Hall has criticised the corporation for contributing to a toxic discourse with political journalism aimed at trying to “catch out” politicians.

Lord Hall, who will move into a top role at the National Gallery after leaving the broadcaster, said the BBC had to more carefully consider its role.

“I’m a great believer in the long form political interview where you can explore at length, not in soundbites, the real policy decisions that politicians are making,” he said in comments carried by The Times.

The 68-year-old was speaking at the launch of the Edelman Trust Barometer a day before the BBC announces cuts to its news division as part of a cost-cutting drive.

Plans to axe Victoria Derbyshire’s BBC Two programme have already been leaked, while flagship shows like Newsnight and Radio 4’s Today programme are also expected to have to make efficiencies.

Lord Hall said the commission’s journalism should reflect the difficulties of making political decisions.

“Exploring those sort of nuances is an important part of what we should do.”

Women of the World Festival reception
Women of the World Festival reception

His comments come as senior Tories continue to boycott BBC Radio 4’s Today at the request of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s special adviser, Dominic Cummings.

Newsnight lead presenter Emily Maitlis responded to Lord Hall’s comments by warning against scripted interviews, insisting “engaging” encounters would ensure audience retention.

“That doesn’t mean everything has to be a battle, far from it, but you do have to leave the audience feeling if they look away they will miss something,” the journalist told The Times.

Lord Hall’s departure takes place during a turbulent time for the broadcaster, with job cuts at the top of the agenda along with equal pay disputes, political bias, diversity and TV licences.