What he said
"You must organise your life so that you only need to see three people." – To a producer at London Weekend Television
"Chief executives do sometimes have to be decisive as well as involve people. And that was such a moment." – Birt on why he didn't he tell his deputy, or the managing director of the World Service or the Foreign Office about the reorganisation of the BBC into directorates
"I think it's put everybody on their toes... they've been sharpened up by competition. We're a more flexible institution, and we go to the market for those things that the market can supply better than we can." – Birt on his "internal market" reforms.
"We're not at all embarrassed about using consultants. All good companies that I'm aware of use consultants. I insist we shouldn't be apologetic about this," – Birt on the consultants he hired at £20m a year
"Our overwhelming purpose remains a public purpose" – Birt on the BBC
What they said
"You cannot make a pair of croak-voiced Daleks appear benevolent, even if you dress one of them in an Armani suit and call the other Marmaduke." – Dennis Potter, the late playwright, on Birt and Marmaduke Hussey, former BBC chairman
"[He] implemented Government's policies using a 'pseudo-Leninist' management style. The BBC had become a secretive and forbidding place to work... an airtight fortress from which no stray opinion is permitted to escape." – Michael Grade, chief executive of Channel 4, who resigned from the BBC shortly after John Birt arrived as deputy director general.
"When you think of the careers he's smashed up, all the talented and intelligent people whose lives have just been wrecked and made a misery, the people who have been neutralised or are now burned-out cases, it's like the Soviet Union under Stalin. He has absolute control, and he's feared." – A former senior BBC executive
"The very things that gave the BBC its unique stature and strength are being destroyed." – Sir David Attenborough
"The management structure is Orwellian and there's a totally bogus tyranny of BBC management theory. Managers operate a bit like the Moonies, but without the conviction." – Charles Denton, the BBC's former head of drama
"I don't think that he understands what the BBC was, or indeed, what it should become. So many managers parrot his name that staff feel there is some sort of Big Brother watching them." – Mark Tully, BBC India correspondent
"[He's] apparently cold in public but capable of evoking great warmth and affection from close friends, until, one might say ungenerously, they go to work for him." – The broadcaster Roger BoltonReuse content