The BBC’s director-general, Mark Thompson, has announced his intention to leave his post this autumn.
Thompson, who was appointed director-general in May 2004, said he felt this autumn – after the conclusion of the BBC’s coverage of the London 2012 Olympics – would be “an appropriate time for me to hand over”.
“The BBC Trust should begin the process of finding the next DG as soon as they see fit,” Thompson said.
“We can address the exact date of the handover once an appointment is made,” Thompson wrote in an email to BBC staff today, “though I have made it clear that I want to be guided by the wishes of the Trust and of my successor, whoever that may be.”
Looking back on his years in the job, Thompson said: “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. 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 BBC. Thank you for your commitment and for your patience.
“It’s because of your efforts that the BBC I will be leaving is so much stronger than the BBC I inherited back in 2004. Trust and approval are at record highs, our services are in brilliant creative form and we’ve demonstrated beyond contradiction that the BBC can be just as much of a leader and innovator in the digital age as we once were in the analogue one.
“Now more than ever, to audiences at home and abroad the BBC is the best broadcaster in the world. It’s been a great privilege helping you to keep the BBC in that top spot over the past eight years.”
Thompson has recently presided over the highly controversial Delivering Quality First initiative, which aims to cut the BBC’s budget by 16 per cent over four years, following the 2010 renegotiation of the licence fee, where it was agreed that TV licences would remain at £145.50 for six years.
Today Thompson observed that “my successor should have time to really get their feet under the table before the next Charter Review process [gets] going.”
BBC Trust Chairman Lord Patten said: “Mark Thompson has been an outstanding director-general of the BBC. He took over during a traumatic period in the corporation’s history and subsequently enhanced its reputation for creativity and quality, while setting the course for the BBC’s digital future. I will miss him on both a personal and professional level and I wish him the very best of luck for the future. The Trust will shortly begin the process of recruiting a successor.”