Ian Burrell: 'You might get a good sitcom out of it' – the belated tarnishing of Mark Thompson's BBC career

  • @iburrell

“You might get a good sitcom out of it.” Those final words from an MP signalled the end of a succession of parliamentary hearings over bungled technology and executive pay-offs that have taken the gloss off Mark Thompson’s time running the BBC.

Earlier the former Director General had attempted his own rather glib humour over a fiasco that has cost £100m of public cash. The Public Accounts Committee heard that the disastrous DMI digital archive had only been used for one BBC programme, Bang Goes the Theory. “Couldn’t be more aptly named you might argue,” offered the former DG as a dry aside.

One MP, exasperated by the lack of documentation of big decisions at Thompson’s BBC, asked him: “What did you ever write down?” Back came the answer: “I’ve got an aching shoulder from the paper I’ve carried into this meeting.”

The CEO of the New York Times Company has moved on to new pastures and may have believed he had given enough ground by apologising early in the proceedings. “I just want to say sorry. I want to apologise to you and the public for the failure of this project.”

His strategy in deflecting the wrath of MPs who believed they had been deceived by his earlier testimony in February 2011 was to argue that he believed what he’d said at the time. He reminded them of the major BBC projects on his watch; the iPlayer, New Broadcasting House, the Olympics. But that fine legacy is now a little tarnished.