BBC boss Lord Hall: I hope services won’t be pared back due to coronavirus

BBC boss Lord Hall said the broadcaster’s priority is to keep “our services going” if it is hit by coronavirus.

The BBC director-general is being quizzed by MPs hours after the deadline to apply for the role of his successor closed.

Asked by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee if there could be a “paring back of services” if the broadcaster suffered cases of the virus, he said: “There could be. I hope there won’t be, but you could imagine a local station or some other part of our network of news operations being out of action for a period.

Lord Hall
Lord Hall (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“We are working through how we can cope with that,” he said, adding it was the broadcaster’s priority to deliver information to the public.

He added: “We are intent on keeping absolutely everything open, all our networks going.

“We’re not planning on anything apart from keeping everything going.”

The director-general was repeatedly asked by committee chair Julian Knight if the BBC is “too woke”.

He replied: “I believe that we should be diverse in all that it means.”

Charlotte Moore, BBC Director of Content, has been tipped to succeed Lord Hall
Charlotte Moore, BBC director of content, has been tipped to succeed Lord Hall (Chris Jackson/PA)

Asked if he takes personal responsibility for the “state of the BBC right now”, he said: “I take responsibility for the state of the BBC, of course I do … I’m the director-general.”

He added that “creatively, the organisation is on fire”.

The BBC director-general is preparing to step down after seven years in the role.

But the end of his tenure comes at an uncertain time for the broadcaster.

The Government has mooted the possible end of the licence fee, with a threat to turn the BBC into a subscription service.

It is also consulting on proposals to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee.

And the current scheme in which all over-75s receive free TV licences will be restricted to those who claim pension credit from June this year.

The deadline for applications to succeed Lord Hall closed on Wednesday.

Dame Carolyn McCall has ruled herself out of the BBC job
Dame Carolyn McCall has ruled herself out of the BBC top job (Chris Radburn/PA)

Several names have been linked to the role.

Internally, they include Charlotte Moore, BBC director of content.

Externally, ITV boss Dame Carolyn McCall has publicly ruled herself out of the race.

It is also understood that James Purnell, BBC director of radio and education, and a former Labour culture secretary, has not applied.

Apple’s creative director in Europe Jay Hunt, and former Ofcom boss turned John Lewis chairwoman Sharon White have also been linked to the role.

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