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Sunday, 28 October, 2001, 11:50 GMT
Former BBC chief 'regrets' hiring Birt
Marmaduke Hussey
Lord Hussey appointed Sir John to BBC in 1987
Former BBC chairman Lord Marmaduke Hussey is reported to have admitted that he should have sacked Sir John Birt as director-general.

Lord Hussey - who was BBC chairman for 10 years until 1996- made his comments about Sir John while talking about his soon-to-be-published memoirs, according to The Sunday Times.

He appointed Sir John as the BBC's deputy director general in 1987, giving him the top job in 1992.

He has never spoken in public about his feelings for Sir John. But he told the newspaper that Sir John lacked the necessary skills for the corporation's top job.

"If I'd been reappointed as chairman I would have got rid of him," commented Lord Hussey.

Sir John Birt
Sir John: Reformed news coverage
"I had chosen a man who did not have the two prime skills of managing and getting on with staff. He totally failed to take the BBC with him."

Sir John was brought to the corporation largely for his experience in news broadcasting.

The BBC had aroused hostility from Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government, which accused the corporation of a left-wing bias in its news coverage.

'Difficult'

As director-general, Sir John - who was made a peer in 2000 - insisted on more analysis in the news and began recruiting more correspondents with specialist knowledge.

But the changes led some to accuse Sir John of making programmes less challenging.

Sir John was also criticised by some who thought he had brought more bureaucracy to the BBC by introducing an internal market.

Lord Hussey is said to describe Sir John as "dogmatic and difficult".

He also suggested that, although he had some fine qualities, "admitting others may be right was not one of them".

Diana

But, said Lord Hussey, his relationship with Sir John cooled beyond repair over the interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, on Panorama - the BBC's flagship news and current affairs programme.

He said Sir John kept the interview a secret from him until only "five or 10 minutes" before the media was told.

Sir John was succeeded as director-general in January 2000 by Greg Dyke.

Lord Hussey was succeeded as chairman of the board of governors by Sir Christopher Bland.

See also:

26 Jan 00 | UK
BBC never stronger - Birt
31 Dec 99 | UK
BBC chief to enter Lords
26 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
The BBC's watchdogs
25 Jun 99 | BBC after Birt
Greg Dyke is new BBC boss
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