Mark Thompson to step down as BBC director general

Read the BBC director general's email to his staff.

Read the BBC director general's email to his staff.{C}

Mark Thompson has announced that he will step down as director general of the BBC this autumn. Below is the email he sent to BBC staff earlier today.

In July 2011, he was interviewed by Joan Bakewell for the New Statesman and famously warned that Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB bid could hand him media power "unheard of in British history".

Dear All,

Last week in a speech to the Royal Television Society, I talked about our plans for the Olympics and the other major broadcasting events of 2012. I pointed to the BBC's current strengths - in quality, creativity and world-class innovation in technology - as well as the big challenges we face both in living within our means and in getting the BBC ready for a digital future. I also commented on speculation about my own future, but promised to tell you and the BBC Trust first when I had reached a view about the timetable.

This morning I told Lord Patten that I believe that an appropriate time for me to hand over to a successor and to step down as Director-General of the BBC would be the autumn of this year, once the Olympics and the rest of the amazing summer of 2012 are over.

When Chris Patten became BBC Chairman last year, I told him I thought there was a strong case for handing over to a successor sooner rather than later. From the point of view of the BBC, I thought that my successor should have time to really get their feet under the table before the next Charter Review process got going.

I have told the Chairman that I believe that he and the Trust should begin the public process of finding the next DG as soon as they see fit. I will of course help them in that endeavour in any way I can. We can address the exact date of the handover once an appointment is made, 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.

Rather amazingly, with nearly eight years in the job I am already the longest-serving Director-General since the 1970s. Over those eight years (not to mention three Chairmen, three Prime Ministers and five Secretaries of State!), we've weathered a series of lively storms and been through some trying as well as some very successful times together. What has made my job not just bearable, but immensely enjoyable and rewarding, is all of you: your talent and energy, your unshakeable belief in the BBC and everything it stands for.

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.

I'm not off just yet though and I'm looking forward to working with you over the coming months, as we prepare for the amazing summer of 2012 - as well as for the long-term future, and continued success, of the BBC.

With all best wishes,

Mark Thompson

Director-General

Mark Thompson, pictured at the new BBC headquarters in Salford, May 2011. Photograph: Getty Images

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

In your 30s? You missed out on £26,000 and you're not even protesting

The 1980s kids seem resigned to their fate - for now. 

Imagine you’re in your thirties, and you’re renting in a shared house, on roughly the same pay you earned five years ago. Now imagine you have a friend, also in their thirties. This friend owns their own home, gets pay rises every year and has a more generous pension to beat. In fact, they are twice as rich as you. 

When you try to talk about how worried you are about your financial situation, the friend shrugs and says: “I was in that situation too.”

Un-friend, right? But this is, in fact, reality. A study from the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that Brits in their early thirties have a median wealth of £27,000. But ten years ago, a thirty something had £53,000. In other words, that unbearable friend is just someone exactly the same as you, who is now in their forties. 

Not only do Brits born in the early 1980s have half the wealth they would have had if they were born in the 1970s, but they are the first generation to be in this position since World War II.  According to the IFS study, each cohort has got progressively richer. But then, just as the 1980s kids were reaching adulthood, a couple of things happened at once.

House prices raced ahead of wages. Employers made pensions less generous. And, at the crucial point that the 1980s kids were finding their feet in the jobs market, the recession struck. The 1980s kids didn’t manage to buy homes in time to take advantage of low mortgage rates. Instead, they are stuck paying increasing amounts of rent. 

If the wealth distribution between someone in their 30s and someone in their 40s is stark, this is only the starting point in intergenerational inequality. The IFS expects pensioners’ incomes to race ahead of workers in the coming decade. 

So why, given this unprecedented reversal in fortunes, are Brits in their early thirties not marching in the streets? Why are they not burning tyres outside the Treasury while shouting: “Give us out £26k back?” 

The obvious fact that no one is going to be protesting their granny’s good fortune aside, it seems one reason for the 1980s kids’ resignation is they are still in denial. One thirty something wrote to The Staggers that the idea of being able to buy a house had become too abstract to worry about. Instead:

“You just try and get through this month and then worry about next month, which is probably self-defeating, but I think it's quite tough to get in the mindset that you're going to put something by so maybe in 10 years you can buy a shoebox a two-hour train ride from where you actually want to be.”

Another reflected that “people keep saying ‘something will turn up’”.

The Staggers turned to our resident thirty something, Yo Zushi, for his thoughts. He agreed with the IFS analysis that the recession mattered:

"We were spoiled by an artificially inflated balloon of cheap credit and growing up was something you did… later. Then the crash came in 2007-2008, and it became something we couldn’t afford to do. 

I would have got round to becoming comfortably off, I tell myself, had I been given another ten years of amoral capitalist boom to do so. Many of those who were born in the early 1970s drifted along, took a nap and woke up in possession of a house, all mod cons and a decent-paying job. But we slightly younger Gen X-ers followed in their slipstream and somehow fell off the edge. Oh well. "

Will the inertia of the1980s kids last? Perhaps – but Zushi sees in the support for Jeremy Corbyn, a swell of feeling at last. “Our lack of access to the life we were promised in our teens has woken many of us up to why things suck. That’s a good thing. 

“And now we have Corbyn to help sort it all out. That’s not meant sarcastically – I really think he’ll do it.”