Tim Davie, one of the BBC’s most senior executives, has been named the broadcaster’s new director general.
Davie has been promoted from chief executive of BBC Studios, the commercial subsidiary that sells BBC and other British programmes abroad.
He became acting director general after the resignation of George Entwistle in 2012, and will now replace Tony Hall.
His top priorities will include negotiating with the government about the future of the licence fee.
The TV licence system will stay in place until at least 2027, but the government is due to review the funding level from 2022 onwards.
Who is Tim Davie?
Davie is one of the corporation’s longest-serving executives, joining from Pepsi to become director of the BBC’s Marketing, Communications & Audiences division in 2005.
He then took over responsibility for radio stations including Radios 1, 2, 3 and 4 as director of the Audio & Music division in 2008.
Soon afterwards, he had to address the outcry by caused prank calls made by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross on Radio 2. The decision to shut 6 Music under his tenure, which was later reversed, also brought scrutiny.
A month after being named chief executive of the corporation’s commercial arm BBC Worldwide in 2012, he stepped in to become acting director general after Entwistle’s short-lived tenure.
Entwistle had resigned after just eight weeks at the helm following a Newsnight error in a child abuse report.
Davie returned to BBC Worldwide after Lord Hall’s appointment as Entwistle’s permanent successor, and Davie oversaw the merger of BBC Worldwide with the BBC’s production arm to form BBC Studios in 2018.
He has now become the 17th director general in the corporation’s 98-year history.
Tim Davie has landed one of the most privileged jobs in Britain and global media, leading thousands of creative people at a remarkable moment in history.
Aside from that, it’s hell.
The challenges are enormous – and those are just the ones we already know about. Tony Hall had the toughest job of any director general in BBC history. Davie will have an even tougher time.
Those challenges include, in no particular order:
- A political negotiation over the future licence fee with a government that, in the recent election, made several threats to the corporation
- A re-evaluation of the commercial model of the BBC, so that it can compete in a hyper-inflationary modern media landscape
- The irreversible flight of younger audiences to other platforms
- Maintaining outstanding programming, trust among a global audience, and standards of impartiality at a time when social media makes that infinitely harder
- Creating a BBC that truly represents Britain
And that’s just the inbox. Most DGs’ legacies are defined by how they handle unforeseen crises, like famous presenters making prank calls, or the revelation that many women are being paid less than men for doing the same work, which is illegal.
It is, obviously, an extraordinary opportunity, which has the considerable consolation that whatever comes after will be easier (and probably better paid).
The BBC has many critics, but most people will wish Davie luck. He will need it.