BBC's Thompson hits back as Murdoch puts the boot in

BBC director-general Mark Thompson tells MT that Auntie is a force for good - whatever James Murdoch thinks.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Last week, News International’s James Murdoch came out all guns blazing against the BBC, suggesting that its ‘state-sponsored journalism’ was damaging not only the media industry but also democracy more generally (reportedly leading to a ‘heated debate’ with Robert Peston). So it’s timely that MT has just been speaking to BBC director-general Mark Thompson, the cover star of our September issue, to get his views on the future of the BBC – and the distinctive challenges of running an organisation about which everyone in the UK seems to have a strong opinion…

Thompson finds himself in an unusual position for a CEO: he’s in trouble for doing too well. Murdoch et al think the BBC has become too big and too successful, particularly online (an argument that could equally be applied to Sky in pay-TV, to be fair). But Thompson insists the BBC has in some respects actually been downsizing during his tenure. ‘Five years ago, we had a significant entertainment element in our website which we took down. We are trying to focus what we do on the web, so we don't do listings - in fact, we have exited many areas that are the most monetisable and won't go back to them,’ he says. ‘And look at BBC1: we have shifted enormously away from acquired programmes and feature films towards news and current affairs, and original UK drama.'

Thompson also tells us what he thinks about top-slicing the licence fee; whether he feels guilty about the BBC’s impact on other media (‘I feel, ah, um, well…’); how he deals with being a punchbag in the press (and sometimes even with his own staff); whether he thinks BBC top brass get paid too much (plus his view on the expenses row); and what he thinks of rumours linking him with a move to America. You can read the whole interview online HERE.

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