— Mike Smithson (@MSmithsonPB) November 15, 2012
Who is going to take over from George Entwistle?
Barely four months after bookies settled bets on the last race, the runners and riders are once again under starter’s orders for the BBC Director General stakes.
The new race has started with speculation that external candidates are favoured. The new broom logic is stronger than ever but, with the ex-DG’s head mounted on a poll outside Television Centre and pay below private sector levels, the right external candidate may be unavailable. The market is led by four strong candidates (two BBC lifers and two externals) and a large field of plausible outsiders.
Last time, speculation focussed on slick and savvy Ofcom Chief Executive, Ed Richards (15/8 Ladbrokes and PaddyPower). But, having been courted, wooed and dumped at the altar before, will Richards risk it again? Lack of editorial experience counted against him last time, but the Entwistle debacle may have sent a message to the BBC Trust that managerial competence trumps TV pedigree.
Expect a Daily Mail hatchet-job should Richards confirm his interest (antipathy stems from an Ofcom decision which condemned the Daily Mail for publishing far more explicit material than was actually broadcast in a “ban this filth” crusade against ITV’s X-Factor). Buy if Richards’ price drifts on such a story.
The other favoured external candidate is Tony Hall (betting suspended at time of writing). Hall narrowly missed out on the job to Greg Dyke (50/1 – Coral) back in 1999. His interest hasn’t waned, he loves the BBC, and has won admirers (Lord Patten included) as Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House. Drawbacks are his age and the impression that he’s coasting in his current small-pond role.
Moving to the internal candidates, acting DG Tim Davie (2/1 – Coral and PP) is undergoing the toughest possible job interview. He’s started well enough by simply thinking what his predecessor would do, and doing the opposite. But that’s the easy part – he’s sure to come under heavy pressure in coming weeks, so buy if his price slips too far.
If Davie comes a cropper, the obvious choice is Caroline Thomson (7/2 – Ladbrokes and PP).Thomson left the Beeb in September having missed out on the top job, but counts as an insider. Resilient and experienced, former Roy Jenkins aide Thomson would be a small “c” conservative choice, but that may be exactly what the BBC Trust want.
Outside the big four, there’s a broad field – a decent case can be made for many of them, but they all have drawbacks and there is no guarantee any could be tempted to weaken their present positions for the sake of a shot at the hot-seat. To name just a few, Channel 4’s Jay Hunt (20/1 – BetVictor) and Sky’s John Ryley (20/1 – PP) both have strong editorial experience although will the BBC raid Murdoch’s stable for the latter? Hunt’s colleague, David Abraham (20/1 – PP) and RTL’s (ex-Channel 5) Dawn Airey (25/1 – Ladbrokes) are on the managerial rather than production side, and that may be the preferred skill set this time. Google’s Peter Barron (20/1 – PP) is a strong dark horse with a BBC pedigree. The BBC Trust would like a real outsider in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Mark Scott (16/1 – PP), but he wasn’t interested earlier in the year.
Of the novelty bets, BBC Chief Commissioning Editor, Tony Hayers (500/1 – BetVictor) lookstempting. A well-regarded TV professional, Hayers is willing to take a tough line with BBC “talent”. On the minus side, he is both fictional and, as Alan Partridge’s autobiography makes abundantly clear, dead.