It was announced this morning that Lord Tony Hall will step down as Director-General of the BBC this summer. Lord Hall, who took up the post in April 2012, revealed the news in a message to BBC staff. He said it was a “hard decision” but wanted to put “the interest of the organisation first”.
His departure from the role comes amid a turbulent time for the broadcaster.
Particularly during the general election campaign, the corporation faced bitter criticism for its coverage – both from Labour and the Conservatives.
Lord Hall denied the allegations of bias, saying that by angering both the Conservative and Labour parties was evidence that the BBC is impartial.
However, it is not the first time the broadcaster was accused of not being fair, especially when it comes to the EU.
In 2015, Lord Hall was accused of hiding behind ancient parliamentary rules when he refused to answer questions from the Commons European scrutiny committee about the BBC’s alleged bias “because he is a peer”.
According to a report by the Daily Mail, furious MPs accused the director-general of putting the BBC “above accountability”.
Former Prime Minister David Cameron urged Lord Hall to back down, saying that as a “general rule”, BBC executives should answer questions from MPs.
He said: “The BBC needs to be, and is, publicly accountable.”
However, the corporation’s chairman, Rona Fairhead, insisted Lord Hall could not answer questions about the corporation’s EU coverage because it could have threatened the BBC’s independence in the run-up to 2015 general election.
Despite Mrs Fairhead’s claims, MPs said the stand-off raised questions about whether peers should be allowed to run major public bodies.
Conservative MP James Clappison said: “It creates the impression that the BBC holds itself above accountability.”
Now Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg added: “It makes it difficult for peers to be put in charge of public bodies if they are going to hide behind their privileges to avoid questioning.”
Following Lord Hall’s decision to step down, the bookies make former Labour MP James Purnell their favourite, with Ladbrokes rating his chances and offering odds of 2/1.
Alex Apati of Ladbrokes said: “Lord Hall’s decision has caught plenty by surprise but it looks as though he will be replaced by James Purnell.”