Thompson warns of cuts in BBC management overhaul

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The Independent Online

The new director general of the BBC marked his first day in the job by unveiling an overhaul of the organisation's management structure and an era of tightened purse strings.

The new director general of the BBC marked his first day in the job by unveiling an overhaul of the organisation's management structure and an era of tightened purse strings.

In a speech to staff, Mark Thompson praised the BBC as "a Noah's ark in a digital world which otherwise might have too little space for creativity and conviction". But he gave a stark warning that "the period of buoyancy and rapid growth" was over and said the BBC would have to be "very careful" about its spending in the future. He said: "We're going to have to change the BBC more rapidly over the next three to five years than at any previous point."

He kick-started the drive towards change by slashing the membership of the executive committee, which leads the BBC, from 16 members to nine, admitting that the old committee set up by Greg Dyke in April 2000 failed over the events leading to the Hutton inquiry.

In place of the old system, Mr Thompson has set up three new boards - a creative board, a journalism board and a commercial board - that will report to the new executive board.

In two sessions - one with 300 senior managers and the second with all staff via the BBC's internal "ringmain" television system - Mr Thompson confessed the BBC was in debt.

He said: "The financial picture I see coming back in the BBC is a tight one."

He added that every bit of the licence fee had been allocated until the end of the BBC's current charter in 2006 and warned that the organisation faced financial burdens, including millions of pounds in increased contributions to ensure the BBC's pension fund was secure.

In a blow to staff hoping for a substantial pay rise, he said: "We're going to have to be very careful about all our costs."

Winners under the new regime include the deputy director general Mark Byford, creative director Alan Yentob, policy director Caroline Thompson, who has taken on the additional title of director of charter review, and finance director John Smith, who has been made chief operating officer.

Mr Byford, who led the BBC in an acting capacity before Mr Thompson's appointment, has been given an enhanced role in charge of all the BBC's journalistic output. As chair of the journalism board, he has been charged with implementing a review into the BBC's editorial processes by the former head of news Ron Neil, which will be published tomorrow.

Richard Sambrook, who was cleared over his role in the events leading to the Hutton inquiry by a deeply unpopular internal review at the BBC will also sit on the journalism board.

Mr Thompson said that following "the worst crisis in its 80-year history," journalism at the BBC should move forward towards "a culture which combines the highest and most uncompromising standards."

He said the BBC would publish plans for a radical overhaul of its complaints procedure, with the emphasis on "greater transparency", and announced four major reviews into cost control, regional strategy, programming and commissioning and the BBC's commercial ventures.

Mr Thompson paid tribute to his predecessor, Mr Dyke, for creating "A BBC which seemed more at ease with itself."

But he added that looking at the BBC from the outside, the organisation could seem "spiky and defensive".

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