BBC Director-General Mark Thompson will step down this autumn


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Mark Thompson today wrote to BBC staff to tell them of his decision to stand down as Director General of the BBC in the autumn “once the Olympics and the rest of the amazing summer of 2012 are over”.

He admitted that his eight years in post had not been without their difficulties, telling colleagues “we’ve weathered a series of lively storms and been through some trying as well as some very successful times together”.

Thompson has caused anger at the BBC for his negotiation of a licence fee settlement that led to the loss of 2,000 posts and his determination to drive through the relocation of BBC services and 1,000 jobs to Salford. But others credit him for securing the future of the corporation and for making it more representative of its audience.

His time in charge has included several broadcasting controversies, including the infamous “Sachsgate” voicemail humiliation of actor Andrew Sachs by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross on Radio 2 and the “Crowngate” saga that led to the resignation of then BBC One controller Peter Fincham for the misrepresentation of footage of the Queen. Thompson has also faced criticism for the size of his salary, which reached £834,000 in 2010, and the money paid to star presenters such as Ross, who was earning £6m a year.

Lord Patten, the new chairman of the BBC Trust, has already indicated that the next BBC Director General will be paid “substantially” less than the current incumbent. But he today paid tribute to Thompson as “an outstanding Director General of the BBC” who had led the organisation during a difficult time. “He took over during a traumatic period in the corporation’s history and subsequently enhanced its reputation for creativity and quality, while setting the course for the BBC’s digital future.”

In his email to staff, Mr Thompson indicated that he hoped the BBC’s coverage of the Olympics and a summer that also includes the Cultural Olympiad and the Golden Jubilee would demonstrate that he was leaving the organisation in a stronger position than when he became Director General in 2004.

He said: “I’ve always been on the side of change because I believe that, in the middle of a media revolution, change is the only way of safeguarding what is so precious about the BBC.  But change always brings disruption and uncertainty in its wake – and I do want to say a particular thank you to everyone who has worked with me in the difficult task of transforming the BBC.”

Thompson joined the BBC as a trainee in 1979 and has dedicated his career to the organisation, although he took two years out to be chief executive of Channel 4 in 2002. “I am already the longest-serving Director-General since the 1970s,” he said.