Birt To Shake Up Lazy Brits

Former BBC director-general Lord Birt has taken up his new role at EMI, where he’ll be trying to help the company get a better return from what it sees as under-performing acts.

The man the late playwright Dennis Potter once ridiculed as a "croak-voiced Dalek" is "on a mission of fundamental change," according to the Sunday Times.

He will consider the best means of promoting stars and selling their music, either through conventional CD sales, Internet downloads or live gigs.

Although the paper says he’s going to "help knock artists such as Robbie Williams and Lily Allen into shape" and that big stars could be dropped if they "fail to pull their weight," he’s more likely to initiate the sort of cost-cutting exercises he employed as head of BBC than tear up the top end of the roster.

Birt’s appointment was revealed mid-September and the Sunday Times, which apparently believes Williams walked away with £80 million in his pocket when he signed his latest all-encompassing EMI deal, looks to have been reacting to the leaked company memo that had new boss Guy Hands complaining about "advances which are often never repaid."

"There has been a lot of talk about what labels offer to artists and to the consumer. However, there is not much talk about how artists should work with their label," Hands said.

Earlier this year Terra Firma, Hands’ venture capital group, paid £2.4 billion and took on £800 million worth of EMI debt to buy the company and take it private.