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Commissioners in Chief

Commissioners in Chief

The boss of the BBC is called the Director General. What a title! It got us thinking, what do chin-stroking auteurs and masters of military strategy have in common? Total dedication to the cause.

attila the hun

A fierce subscriber to the ‘take no prisoners’ school of institutional management, he swept into London from the east (Basildon), plundering talk show hosts from ITV and Channel 4 alike. Introduced a short-lived Red Button service for horse-racing tips.

akira kurosawa

His celebrated psychological thriller Rashomon, in which a murder is recounted in contradictory ways by different witnesses, was really just a rehash of his work on Question Time, where current affairs are described in contradictory ways by different pundits, and you want to murder them all.


Rose from a bumpy spell as Moscow Correspondent to the top job. Had a fractious relationship with successive Tory governments, and being a slightly chippy Corsican, found himself ill at ease in Hampstead drawing rooms.

wes anderson

Remember the BBC One ident of hippos swimming in a circle? If you watch closely, you’ll see Anderson directing them in the background. In a Victorian diving suit.

alexander the great

The young Macedonian founded and renamed dozens of cities across his vast but short-lived empire. To avoid accusations of regional bias, he set up a BBC media centre in each of them.

quentin tarantino

Had a long-­running public spat with conservative activist Mary Whitehouse, during which he set the record for the most expletives in a published letter to The Times. Yet when the pair eventually met they got on famously, both agreeing that film and TV had been going downhill since the ’50s.

oliver cromwell

Reviled by many for his extensive cuts to Christmas programming. Media historians have partially rehabilitated his reputation by pointing out that his Irish campaigns, while genocidal, managed to delay the production of Mrs Brown’s Boys by several years.

sofia coppola

She paid Bill Murray many multiples of Gary Lineker’s salary, but given he wasn’t permanently on Twitter no one seemed to mind much.

bong joon-ho

Very keen on Upstairs Downstairs and Great Continental Railway Journeys.

christopher nolan

Masterminded a 2020 false flag operation to shore up the BBC’s viewership, in which he released a film so mind-bendingly pretentious it hastened the demise of cinemas around the world.

hannibal barca

His army crossing the Alps atop war elephants was a tactical triumph that went down in military history. Hannibal’s subsequent fondness for heli-skiing in the same area was brought up in every Defund the BBC campaign from 215 BC onwards.

josh & benny safdie

The only remaining trace of their avant-garde tenure is the thumping techno that precedes the News at Ten every evening. That, and the nerve-shredding countdowns on Pointless.

robert e lee

While his appointment was initially seen as ‘one in the eye’ of the liberal BBC establishment, Lee’s Confederate credentials only got him so far. In 1863 he was denounced as a ‘SNOWFLAKE’ by the Daily Mail, after one week saw both the defeat of the Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg and the announcement of the first same-sex couple on Strictly Come Dancing.

alfred hitchcock

Nobody who’s sat in the audience of Mock the Week (renewed by Hitchcock for 1,000 episodes) could possibly doubt the master’s ability to create an atmosphere of tension and discomfort purely by the use of laughterless silence.

woody allen


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