| LONDON, March 19
LONDON, March 19 Mark Thompson is to step down
as the director general of the BBC after guiding the
world-renowned state broadcaster from one of its lowest points
to again providing leading entertainment and news through a time
of enormous technological upheaval.
Thompson, who will step down after the London Olympics and
Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations this summer, said on Monday
he had decided to leave after almost eight years in the job.
"We've weathered a series of lively storms and been through
some trying as well as some very successful times together," he
said in an email to staff.
Thompson took over the top job in 2004 as the corporation
hit rock bottom following a very public spat with the government
over its coverage of the build up to the Iraq war.
With staff staging spontaneous walk-outs in disgust at the
criticism of its editorial standards, Thompson steadied the
corporation and rebuilt trust with the public and government.
While he endured further trouble along the way, with
criticism over some programmes and standards, he will also be
remembered for the launch of the hugely popular iPlayer service
which allows viewers to catch up with programmes online.
"He's been an outstanding success because the one thing
most people did not foresee was that the explosion in digital
technology would result in the BBC's having an extraordinary
reach and value and its news services being consumed as never
before," Claire Enders of consultants Enders Analysis told
"When Mark Thompson took over, BBC1 was not the leading
channel in the UK that it is today. For the people who pay the
licence fee, that's quite an important achievement."
Thompson acknowledged that it had not always been easy, and
in October he said the BBC would have to cut by over 10 percent
its staff in management, programming and news divisions after
Britain's cash-strapped government imposed deep spending cuts on
the corporation's budget.
"I've always been on the side of change because I believe
that, in the middle of a media revolution, change is the only
way of safeguarding what is so precious about the BBC," he said.
"But change always brings disruption and uncertainty in its
wake - and I do want to say a particular thank you to everyone
who has worked with me in the difficult task of transforming the
During his time at the corporation, Thompson also clashed
with rivals included pay-TV group BSkyB and some
newspaper companies who accused the broadcaster of expanding too
aggressively and threatening the success of commercial rivals.
With eight national TV channels, 50 radio stations and an
extensive website, the BBC's size and resources had long
attracted envy and criticism led by rivals including James
As the recession gathered steam in 2008, that criticism
intensified as advertising-funded groups such as ITV
struggled to cope, cutting staff and budgtes.
Media consultant Steve Hewlett, who also works for the BBC,
said the corporation had quickly regained its poise after
Thompson took over.
"As a report card goes, it's mostly As."