BBC must serve all audiences, says new boss Tim Davie

Director-general faces claims that broadcaster is too London-centric and anti-Brexit

Tim Davie has begun work as the BBC’s director-general, telling staff his priority is making sure the organisation “represents every part of this country”.

His short note to staff on his first day is designed to set the tone of his leadership and placate the corporation’s critics – especially in the government – who accuse it of being too London-centric and making programmes that don’t appeal to Brexit voters.

Davie is holding back his first major announcements until he talks to staff on Thursday, although this has not stopped speculation over the weekend regarding his plans. The Daily Telegraph claimed there would be a cull of leftwing BBC comedy shows in which the jokes were “unfairly biased against the Tories, Donald Trump and Brexit”.

In a symbolic gesture, Davie will be spending his first day in Glasgow at the BBC’s base in Scotland, where the corporation’s trust has taken a battering over the last decade.

During the 2014 independence referendum, there were protests against the corporation’s news output, setting the tone for similar objections in the following years by supporters of Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party leadership.

Davie told staff they must work to reach all parts of the UK with their output and all parts of the audience: “Overall, my guiding principle is that we are a universal public service – a BBC for all, that serves and represents every part of this country.

“Our focus must be to ensure that we deliver outstanding and unique value to all audiences – those who pay for us and are in effect our customers – in return for their licence fee. To do this we will need to keep reforming the BBC with urgency so that we are trusted, relevant and indispensable in this digital age.

“While we do face challenges, the senior team and I are incredibly proud to be leading this organisation and supporting you. We are an organisation that matters, and your work is admired for its creative brilliance, outstanding journalism and much more across the world. I am here to ensure that continues.”

He takes over the job from Tony Hall, who spent seven years in the role during a turbulent time for the BBC. The broadcaster faces scrutiny over equal pay, diversity, free TV licences for the over-75s and competition from streaming services, such as Netflix, as well as the coronavirus crisis.

Davie was the BBC’s acting director-general for four months after George Entwistle resigned in November 2012 before Lord Hall’s appointment, and he previously served as the corporation’s head of audio. Before joining the BBC in 2005, he worked in marketing.

Davie starts the week after the BBC faced controversy over the decision to play orchestral versions of Rule, Britannia! and Land of Hope and Glory at the Last Night of the Proms. The BBC is also expecting to receive a report into the use of social media by its staff, including presenters, written by Richard Sambrook.


Jim Waterson Media editor

The GuardianTramp

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