What Ariel letter writers thought of Mark Thompson?
It's been a turbulent few years for the outgoing director general Mark Thompson. As he bids farewell we take a look at how his pay, pension changes and his accusations of past BBC bias played out with staff in the Ariel letters page.
Why does Mark Thompson continually justify his salary and that of others in top jobs at the BBC by comparing them to salaries paid in the private sector?
The BBC is a public service broadcaster, paid for with licence and tax payers' money. Lower grade staff are continually told that we cannot expect higher wages for this reason.
We are told that if we want higher wages, we should leave and get work in the private sector.
Most of us stay here because we like working at the BBC and value our output more than we value the luxuries that high salaries can buy.
What an enormous pity that the person who heads the BBC doesn't share the same view.
Lindsay Alexander, Global News, 26 January 2010
Mark Thompson recently came to Cardiff to talk about "Putting Quality First" and the "tough choices" involved.
Most staff will no doubt read this as service losses and budget or job cuts. But it seems whatever austere times lie ahead for most people in the BBC, the dg and senior management seem happy to continue travelling and staying wherever they are in style. Belt-tightening is for everyone else.
When asked why the rules should be different for those at the top end of the BBC, I think it would be fair to say Mark's response could be summed up by the tag line for the L'Oreal advert: "Because we're worth it".
Heidi Williams, producer, Cardiff, 18 May 2010
I'm not in the habit of writing to Ariel. I'm not a member of the unions. I don't believe in strike action. I've accepted long hours, high risks assignments, damage to health and marriage and modest pay, precisely because I am privileged to work in the best broadcaster in the world.
But the pensions debacle crosses a line. Mark Thompson is deluding himself if he thinks he can explain away the genuine shock at this decision by appealing to our love for, and luck to work for 'the world's most creative broadcaster'. More like 'the world's most creative management'.
I believe the BBC owes me compensation either for being in breach of contract or guilty of mis-selling the policy to me. Why else would I have confidently shifted my earned years from my previous employer's (still properly honoured and extant) final salary scheme to the BBC's?
Presumably, those pension years working for Associated Press will now be eroded and used to fund the generous pensions of those fortunate enough to be considering retirement.
I hope the unions appoint a suitably qualified QC who would be grateful for the kudos to be gained by fighting such a cynically iniquitous manoeuvre by the BBC's senior management.
Chris Booth, World Service newsgathering planning editor, 20 July 2010
Just who is biased?
"There was a massive left-wing bias at the BBC,' said the director general, and there was much rejoicing in the Tory press about that headline when it appeared above an interview with Mark Thompson in the New Statesman (2 September).
"In the BBC I joined 30 years ago  there was, in much of current affairs, in terms of people's personal politics, which were quite vocal, a massive bias to the left. The organisation did struggle then with impartiality. And journalistically, staff were quite mystified by the early years of Thatcher."
As Mark's boss 29 years ago, when editor of Nationwide (and earlier of Tonight and Panorama), I was in turn baffled and rather irritated by that statement. What is his evidence?
Perhaps he believes my fellow programme editors of that time like Chris Capron, George Carey, Ron Neil, Peter Ibbotson and Hugh Williams were lefties? In which case he must be possessed of remarkable insight since even today I don't know what their political leanings were or are.
How about the main presenters then, Robin Day, David Dimbleby, John Tusa, Peter Snow, Frank Bough, Sue Lawley. Card carrying commies? I don't think so.
What about the rows with the Thatcher government? Ah the rows! Well I was involved in quite a few of them and they weren't about whether we were pro or anti Mrs Thatcher; they were about whether we should report as honestly and openly as we could about the situation on Northern Ireland or the Falklands War.
The then Prime Minister saw no role for independent journalism in the coverage of the Troubles or in the undeclared war against Argentina.
Of course everyone has views. It is undeniable that most editorial staff were, and probably are, of a liberal inclination when it comes to social issues, and that they cluster around the middle ground of the political spectrum. I would also suggest they are predominately secular as well. WE all have biases, the crucial thing is to be aware of them.
However, it is something else entirely to suggest that we flawed creatures made predominantly left wing programmes.
When he worked for me, Mark used to do his research. In this case, he clearly has not.
Roger Bolton, presenter, Feedback, 21 September 2010
In response, Ariel was pointed towards what Mark Thompson said after his comment about 'a bias to the left'. The DG added: "Now it is a completely different generation. There is much less overt tribalism among the young journalists who work for the BBC. It is like the New Statesman, which used to the various shades of soft and hard left and is now more technocratic. We're like that, too. We have an honourable tradition of journalists from the right [working for us].
"The BBC is not a campaigning organisation and can't be, and actually the truth is that sometimes our dispassionate flavour of broadcasting frustrates people who have got very, very strong views, because they want more red meat. Often that plays as bias. People think: 'Why can't they come out and say they are bastards?' And that can play out on the left and right."
Mark Thompson's CV says he joined the BBC in 1979 as a production trainee. So has anyone done the maths to find out what his pension would be applying the 1% cap etc that he's proposing?
And why doesn't he show a bit of "sauce for the goose" and voluntarily agree to reduce his current pension to this level?
Wallace Brown, BBC News Media exchange, technology operations, 28 November 2010
Has anything changed?
I would be more impressed by Mark Thompson's latest pledge to find more opportunities for older woman if he had delivered on his previous promises on the issue.
It is now sixteen months since the BBC announced that I was to be one of four older women presenters on the BBC News Channel. Last year I was given fewer than 20 days in the role. This year so far I have been given just one presenting shift.
Those who warned the initiative was nothing more than a PR stunt after the Miriam O'Reilly tribunal are being proved right.
Carole Walker, Political correspondent/BBC News Channel presenter, 5 April 2011
Mark Thompson replies:
I was genuinely surprised to read your letter. I have been told by my colleagues in BBC News that both they and you have found it hard to fit the shifts in the News Channel around your other commitments for the BBC. They remain committed to giving you the agreed number of shifts a year if you can fit them in.
Was it really appropriate for the DG to say that the BBC can't get the best people to apply for the top jobs the day before announcing that George Entwistle had been appointed director of Vision? I'm sure George is glad to know he has Mark's full confidence.
However, leaving aside the question of whether nearly £300k pa is actually an adequate salary, surely Mark's statement reveals a deeper failing at the top of the BBC. Why are so few suitable candidates available internally? The BBC has traditionally developed internal candidates for these positions, so what has gone wrong recently that means that potential candidates are no longer up to the job?
Since we can't increase the pay to attract the top talent from the commercial sector, we'll need to go back to recruiting from within. So what does Mark intend to do to ensure that more candidates will be available for these roles in future?
Kyren Burns, Content producer, Parents and Teachers, BBC Learning, 10 May 2011
Mark Thompson replies: I agree that it's important to develop as many in-house candidates as possible for senior jobs. We're doing that with some success - we've filled a number of key jobs (director Vision, director News, controller BBC One) with internal candidates recently - and plan to increase the proportion of senior jobs filled from within over the coming years.
But we also have to recognise that we often lose potential in-house candidates to other broadcasters (who usually pay more than the BBC does) and that there are occasions when the best candidate for a given job is an external one.
I am very pleased to confirm that in the case of Vision, the Board decided unanimously that, from a strong field of internal and external candidates, the very best person for the job was George Entwistle.