The outgoing BBC direcotr general Lord Hall has insisted that the organisation is not the not ‘the woke corporation’ – as he suggested the broadcaster must ensure its staff is less London-centric.
He said: ‘You don’t want people who all think alike.
‘So you need diverse voices around the table; that could be diverse because you’ve got black, Asian, minority voices around the table, that’s important. I’ve got a thing myself about social diversity.
‘And the second thing I think is really important is that we can and should be more out of London.
Lord Tony Hall – who will be replaced by Tim Davie on September 1 – said moving away from the capital would help the organisation to be more relevant to licence fee payers.
‘We’re 50 per cent in London, and 50 per cent out of London, in spend and people. I think we can do much better than that. I think we can get to 70 per cent out of London.’
He added that the nation had learned from coronavirus that corporations ‘don’t need as many buildings as you think’ as he implied working from home would become the new norm.
The BBC has several offices across the UK, including its north-western Salford headquarters and Broadcasting House in London.
The BBC can embark on a ‘big push’ to move more staff out of London, the corporation’s outgoing director-general Lord Tony Hall has said
He told The Daily Telegraph: ‘What we’ve learnt from Covid is that you don’t need as many buildings as you think, therefore you can be more diverse in where you centre people.’
‘I think we can do a big push to get more out of London, and that changes the dynamic of the discussions you have and therefore – and I hate using the the word relevance, but I will do – your relevance to the people that are paying for you.’
Lord Hall said it is not the BBC’s job to ‘take sides’, adding: ‘We should not pander to any particular group; we should be giving everybody, whoever they are, something.
‘We should try to be the calm centre in what is a very stormy situation.’
In January, Lord Hall announced plans to move two-thirds of the corporation’s staff outside London ‘at least’ by 2027.
The BBC has several offices across the UK, including its north-western Salford headquarters and Broadcasting House in London (pictured)
He added that 70 per cent of BBC staff could be placed outside of London. Pictured: The BBC studios at Salford Quays, Manchester
Lord Hall also addressed the ongoing row over plans to perform Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory without lyrics at Last Night of the Proms after critics claimed the patriotic anthems were ‘racist’.
He said the controversy shows ‘what the BBC does matters’.
He said the move to play orchestral versions of Rule, Britannia! and Land Of Hope And Glory that do not feature singing was ‘the right creative decision’.
He added that ‘when you haven’t got an audience… it’s going to feel very, very flat’.
Traditional songs, which some find controversial because of their perceived ties to imperialism, will be played without lyrics at this year’s Last Night, although the BBC has confirmed they will be sung again in 2021.
Lord Hall’s comments come after composer Errollyn Wallen, who has written a new arrangement of Jerusalem which will be played during the Last Night performance, hit out at Prime Minister Boris Johnson for his intervention on the issue.
She said that his comments were ‘irresponsible’.
Earlier this week, Mr Johnson said he found the decision to remove the lyrics difficult to believe.
‘I think it’s time we stopped our cringing embarrassment about our history, about our traditions, and about our culture, and we stopped this general bout of self-recrimination and wetness,’ he added.
Jamie Barton waving the the rainbow flag at the Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, London last year, while singing Rule Britannia
Responding to his comments, Ms Wallen said: ‘I think that is the first step, certainly cringe with embarrassment, and then go further and let’s open up the history that we are all part of.
‘So that is the first step.’
She added: ‘I think he was being irresponsible at a time when the arts gets so little support.
Lord Hall’s comments come after composer Errollyn Wallen (pictured), who has written a new arrangement of Jerusalem which will be played during the Last Night performance, hit out at Prime Minister Boris Johnson for his intervention on the issue
‘It has been hung out to dry, especially with all that’s happened with Covid-19.
‘His remarks weren’t at all helpful.’
Ms Wallen she was ‘dismayed’ that so many politicians waded into the row.
There is a ‘hullabaloo’ over the Last Night, she said, adding: ‘Some of that was whipped up, to be honest.’
Earlier this week, Lord Hall confirmed the issue of dropping songs because of their association with Britain’s imperial past had been discussed.
The live music leg of the BBC Proms kicked off on Friday with a performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
At the beginning of the BBC Two coverage of Friday’s performance, Stephen Fry, who was presenting, said it was ‘extraordinary’ to be there.
He added: ‘It is exciting, as a Prom always is, except without the audience it’s exciting for other reasons because this is such a great moment in the cultural history of our nation, that the grass is growing back up through the concrete and finally there’s live music.’
The Last Night will be performed on September 12.
During the classical musical festival there will also be performances held in locations including Salford Quays and Cardiff’s Hoddinott Hall.