THE ANDREW DAVIDSON INTERVIEW: Tony Hall

THE ANDREW DAVIDSON INTERVIEW: Tony Hall - The former head of BBC News proved a safe pair of hands in the Birt era and was looking like future DG material. So why take a drop in salary to be the fifth boss in five years at the Royal Opera House, the 'dirt

by ANDREW DAVIDSON

The former head of BBC News proved a safe pair of hands in the Birt era and was looking like future DG material. So why take a drop in salary to be the fifth boss in five years at the Royal Opera House, the 'dirtiest job in the arts'? Could he be star-struck?

There are some jobs in life you love, and some you hate, and some you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. And then there's running the Royal Opera House. If you were drawing up an MT list of worst executive jobs to take on over the past decade, it would be pretty near the top. Consider the constants: vicious backbiting, full-on media glare, continual near-bankruptcy, unclear lines of command, a horror of conventional management methods, politicians sticking their oar in, hosts of volatile artistic types venting their spleen ...

Sounds like the BBC? Well, in parts, which may explain why the ROH's latest executive director, Tony Hall, feels he's got the experience to whip this particular viper's nest into submission. He spent nearly 30 years at the Beeb, latterly running BBC News as John Birt's right-hand man. He has not a day's experience of arts administration but knows plenty about resistance to change, star egos and tantrums. At the BBC, he handled it all with steely good humour, always the 'upbeat man' as he forced through innovations. Here in Covent Garden, though, I get the impression that he is still feeling his way.

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