BBC’s Mark Thompson blasts Sky – but fails to answer some important questions

BBC director-general Mark Thompson took our advice and loosed off all available barrels at former Sky boss James Murdoch, his forerunner as MacTaggart lecturer at the Edinburgh International TV Festival.

Murdoch junior had accused the BBC of being too big and powerful and having a “chilling” effect on commercial competition in the UK TV and online marketplaces.

Thompson, who can clearly recognise an open goal when he sees one, lambasted Sky for failing to support the UK TV industry in terms of commissions and, with a revenue of plus £5bn as opposed to the BBC’s £3.5bn, talking through its hat when it spoke of overwheening power and influence.

All of which is absolutely correct.

He also put Sky on the spot in not paying carriage fees to the likes of ITV, Channel 4 and Five, which was a smart move. New Five owner Richard Desmond will be intrigued by this, if he hasn’t thought of it already.

But Thompson signally failed to answer questions about the BBC’s own practices, in particular the gilded lifestyles and pensions of its senior management, including him. He did promise economies but was remarkably short on specifics.

And his remarks to the effect that taking away one pound from the BBC was the equivalent to reducing the British ‘creative economy’ by the same amount is clearly cobblers. If deputy D-G Mark Byford lost some of his £400,000 a year pension would that reduce UK creative output?

Neither did he deal with the BBC North fiasco where loads of BBC staff are being uprooted to Manchester while the bosses, including BBC North boss Peter Salmon, are staying in the Home Counties. Salmon says his kids are at important stages in their education.

So the other employees don’t have children in similar circumstances? Come off it, Mark.

Anyway, here’s the full text of what Thompson said. It’s good stuff but…..

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.