BBC chief criticises James Murdoch

Sunday 23 October 2011 01:17

BBC Director-General Mark Thompson has criticised News Corporation boss James Murdoch, warning that "integrity" rather than "profit" is the best way to guarantee broadcasting independence.

Mr Thompson has also robustly defended the BBC's news dominance - which has been criticised by Mr Murdoch - to point out it has a duty to serve all households, and it is viewed as the most trusted source.

His comments come ahead of the Edinburgh Television Festival which kicks off with its keynote speech, the MacTaggart Lecture, tomorrow.

Mr Thompson, writing in The Guardian, was critical of the MacTaggart delivered by Mr Murdoch two years ago in which he had said "the only reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of independence is profit".

But the director-general said today that subsequent events in the fallout from the phone-hacking scandal had given the words "an almost tragic irony".

The issue has led to the closure of the News Of The World and the collapse of News Corp's bid to take complete control of BSkyB.

Mr Thompson suggested that if the speech was given this year, Mr Murdoch should instead focus on "integrity".

"The only reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of independence is not profit. Nor who you know. Nor what corners you can cut. It's integrity," he wrote.

Mr Thompson defended the BBC's position as a preferred news source. He said that critics have complained about the web presence of BBC News, but said the corporation's market share is "comparatively small".

"If instead it's argued that, notwithstanding the breadth of choice, too many people choose to consume BBC News, then there are two other obstinate facts to confront," he said.

"First, the BBC's charter calls for it to try to serve every household; is it reasonable to criticise it for doing exactly what it has been asked to do? Second, the British public tell us that one of the key reasons why they use the BBC is because they trust it more than other sources.

"If policymakers begin to regard high levels of public trust as a problem to be corrected, we really are in trouble," he added.

Tomorrow's MacTaggart Lecture is to be given by Google chairman Eric Schmidt.

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