Yes, Mark Thompson has announced that he is stepping down as Director General of the BBC.
That news is a fantastic birthday present.
Just a few weeks ago, he admitted that the BBC had got it wrong on women, “that the broadcaster does not have enough older female newsreaders and presenters“.
No. I’d say he‘s got it wrong. After all, who’s in charge?
And I’d say he’s got it wrong in so many other ways too.
He totally underestimated the popularity of BBC local radio. The BBC Trust has forced you to reconsider making huge cuts to local radio which would result in a much less local service. Making us wonder, what’s the point of having local radio at all?
Before that, he wanted to shut down BBC 6 Music. He thought it was just another pop station. But the great British public stood up and told the BBC Trust what the pioneer DAB digital radio station means to them. So (until the next useless out of touch DG comes along) 6 Music has been saved.
Great to see Broadcasting House being refurbished of course, but why was it so over-budget? Who’s in charge? That’s my licence money he’s been wasting.
This big move to Salford: I don’t know but I suspect the BBC will live to regret that decision. London is the nation’s capital, an eighth of the population lives within striking distance. It’s the cultural centre of the nation, whether you like it or not.
Selling off the iconic Television Centre. I don’t know but I suspect the BBC will live to regret that decision too. In the same way they now regret erasing all those Doctor Who tapes. Because we need more empty office blocks in London. If this building is no longer needed for producing programmes, surely it can be turned into a money-making tourist attraction? Decades of history available, radio, TV, film, documentaries, technology, props: it would appeal to everyone.
But I can’t resist this opportunity to recall the first time I became aware of Thompson’s existence, back in 1999. The BBC radio station for London, GLR, was threatened with closure. The campaign to save the station ultimately failed but Mark Thompson’s true colours came to the fore:
IN THE light of the BBC’s recent “Train Week”,
viewers and listeners may be interested to hear the
unexpurgated opinions of Mark Thompson, the
corporation’s grandly titled director of nations
and regions, towards rail safety.
Thompson aired his views during a recent staff
meeting at Greater London Radio – which, unhappily
for him, was secretly recorded. The main topics on
the agenda were the proposed reduction of music on
GLR, and Thompson’s Guardian article criticising the
station for playing “pop” music on the day of the
Paddington train crash. Also on the panel was Jane
Mote, head of London and south-east regions…
GLR staff member: “If you turned on GLR in five
years’ time, what would you want to hear?”
Jane Mote: “Mark’s not going to give you a schedule
now because there isn’t a schedule.”
Mark Thompson: “I could do, I could do.”
JM: “No, please! [Thompson laughs.] Paddington
MT: “YES, lots of train crashes please!” (MT carries
Later in the meeting, Thompson returned to the
JM: “I think music is an expression of cultural life in
London and therefore it has an important role to play
MT: “I just want to hear about train crashes.”
JM: “…and Mark just wants death and gloom.”
Thompson seemed to find this all vastly amusing,
apparently regarding the Paddington disaster as
nothing more than a way of jacking up the ratings for
extended news coverage. But he was rather less
amused when staff challenged him about the
Grauniad article in which he revealed that he had “hit
the roof” when he heard a pop song on GLR on the
morning of the crash.
The song in question, Mambo No 5, was played
on Kiss FM at 8.31 that morning and on Capital
Radio at 9.01am – but it wasn’t played on GLR at all
that day, not least because GLR was too busy
providing, er, extended coverage of the disaster. It
transpired that Thompson is so incompetent he hadn’t
even tuned his radio to the correct station!
That’s from Private Eye No 993 Friday 14 January 2000.
Mark Thompson will not be missed.
But on a more positive note, what else did I get for my birthday? Well, a couple of CDs related to radio shows that I like. What a lovely surprise!
The Old Grey Whistle Test 40th Anniversary Album
World Routes on the Road