Media Lifeline: Mark Thompson

Despite a remuneration package of £834,000, the BBC's directorgeneral says there needs to be 'painful cuts'.

September 2009: As part of a strategic review led by the director-general, Mark Thompson, the BBC admits that one issue under consideration is whether 100 per cent ownership of the commercial arm BBC Worldwide is essential in the future. This follows attempts by commercial rivals to argue for a share of the BBC licence fee.

November 2009: In the interests of openness, the BBC publishes, for the first time, full details of the earnings of its top directors. It emerges that Thompson's remuneration package totals £834,000. Other oddities to emerge include suggestions that Thompson claimed for £90 of parking meter charges on expenses, including one for just 70p. The disclosure of director salaries leads to a clamour for the release of earnings of top on-screen talent.

December 2009: Thompson announces that the corporation plans to scale back on elements of its online operations and also consider the shape of its digital and radio output following digital switchover in 2012. Regional newspaper owners, in particular, have been concerned over perceived BBC encroachment into online news. And he again reiterates the potential for some kind of commercial industry tie-up with BBC Worldwide.

March 2010: The findings of the Thompson-led strategy review emerge, revealing the need for "£400 million of painful cuts". But the headlines are grabbed by a campaign to save the digital radio station BBC 6 Music following the review's recommendation that it be scrapped. The BBC Trust later reprieves the station. The commercial media industry is disappointed that the cuts don't go deeper, and is baffled that BBC3 emerges unscathed.

August 2010: A year on from James Murdoch's Edinburgh MacTaggart lecture, in which the BSkyB chief executive described the BBC's ambitions as "spine-chilling", Thompson hits back with a robust defence of its activities and takes its critics on by arguing that the BBC has never been more popular among viewers.

Fast forward ...

August 2011: Thompson's stock rises on the back of a savage attack by the Channel 5 owner, Richard Desmond, in his MacTaggart lecture. Supporters rally around Thompson and the BBC when Desmond suggests that the corporation is privatised and that a major chunk should be sold to Northern & Shell. Even fans of Murdoch's Sky baulk at the idea of Jordan reading the evening news on BBC One.


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