BBC Director-General Mark Thompson will step down this autumn
Ian Burrell is Assistant Editor and Media Editor at The Independent, i paper and Independent on Sunday. He covers news from the whole media sector from television, press, radio and advertising to technology. His weekly column on the media appears every Monday in The Independent and i paper. He also writes on media, music and culture, including long-form pieces for The Independent’s Saturday magazine and the Independent on Sunday’s magazine, New Review. He is a regular presenter of BBC Radio 4’s What The Papers Say and a specialist commentator to Monocle 24 radio. He has contributed to most major broadcast outlets including BBC television and radio, CNN, Sky News, Al Jazeera and LBC. He has also written on media for GQ magazine. Ian has been reporting on the media industry for The Independent for more than a decade. Previously he was the newspaper’s Home Affairs Editor. He worked at The Sunday Times for five years, including as a member of the investigative Insight team, covering stories on political funding, industrial espionage and the arms industry. Previously he worked in ITV for London Weekend Television, on a weekly current affairs programme presented by Danny Baker. Ian trained at the Birmingham Post & Mail and was Regional Reporter of the Year in Press Gazette’s national awards.
Monday 19 March 2012
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.
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