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50 People Who Matter 2011 | 41. Mark Thompson

Uncle Auntie.

Director general of the BBC since 2004, Mark Thompson is the highest-paid employee of any public-sector organisation in the UK, earning £834,000. He has pitted himself against the Murdochs, using his 2010 MacTaggart Lecture to criticise Rupert Murdoch's attempt to buy the remaining shares of BSkyB. Thompson argued that this would be an "unheard-of" concentration of media power. The power of being in the top-spot at the world's biggest public-service broadcaster speaks for itself. The BBC's World News global reach is estimated to be more than 400 million; people worldwide rely on the service for impartiality. With the TV licence fee under threat and the government cutting the World Service budget by 16 per cent, Thompson faces the challenge of reforming the Beeb in straitened times, while also maintaining its quality and reputation.

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This article first appeared in the 26 September 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The fifty people who matter