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Mark Thompson outside BBC Television Centre, London

Change and reorganisation - signs of things to come as Thompson becomes DG

The BBC's new Director-General Mark Thompson arrived for his first day at the helm today with a clear message to staff of the need for real, radical change over the next few years.

Outlining a restructuring of the BBC's Executive Committee, Mr Thompson also announced reviews into its commercial businesses, production and commissioning, and how to increase efficiencies and control costs through self help.

"We are going in to this with a genuinely open mind but these are questions which are not going to go away. If we did not examine them thoroughly ourselves, others would do it for us," he told 28,000 BBC staff around the UK.

Mr Thompson paid tribute to his predecessors Greg Dyke and John Birt as brilliant leaders in very different ways.

"They got the BBC successfully to this point. Now, with the guidance of BBC Chairman Michael Grade and the rest of the Governors, we have to find our own way of taking the BBC on to the next stage."

Mr Thompson said that since he left the BBC in early 2002 to become Chief Executive of Channel 4, both the BBC and he had changed and he was coming back with fresh eyes.

Internal changes led by Greg Dyke had done the BBC good but it now needed to look at the outside world and address key concerns.

He outlined some of the themes that will emerge next week when the BBC publishes its manifesto for the future and contribution to the debate over renewal of its Royal Charter.

"Without great programmes, great content, we're nothing. Our task is going to be to change the BBC more rapidly and radically over the next three to five years than at any previous point in its history.

"We believe that over the next decade the BBC will have a bigger role than ever in building public value, creating a far more open, responsive, agile BBC and always putting our audiences first.

"The BBC is a kind of Noah's Ark in a digital world which otherwise might have too little space for creativity and conviction," said Mr Thompson.

One of his first moves will be to make the structure of the BBC simpler, more effective and more able to adapt and change by creating three new boards, covering the BBC's main activities (details below).

Mr Thompson will chair a cross media Creative Board made up of all divisions that drive the BBC's creative work.

Alan Yentob, currently Director of Drama, Entertainment and CBBC, will also become the BBC's Creative Director.

Deputy Director-General Mark Byford, in an enhanced role, will now lead all the BBC's journalism.

He will chair a new Journalism Board, bringing all the BBC's journalism at an international, UK, national, regional and local level together for the first time.

The board will also implement all the recommendations of the independent Neil Review, convened to identify lessons following Lord Hutton's Inquiry, which will be published in full tomorrow (Wednesday).

Mr Thompson said the Governors had rightly rejected splitting the role of DG and Editor-in-Chief post-Hutton.

"Nonetheless I recognise that the BBC's journalism will require more continuous and concentrated editorial leadership at the top of the organisation as we go forward.

"I have asked Mark Byford to make journalism the centrepiece of his role as Deputy DG," said Mr Thompson.

Finance Director John Smith will chair the third board, covering the BBC's commercial businesses, giving greater strategic clarity and realising economic and creative potential.

He will also take on the new role of Chief Operating Officer (COO), taking charge of all the BBC's commercial and resourcing subsidiaries, as well as leading its Finance and Property departments.

A fourth major strand of work will be led by Caroline Thomson, currently Director of Policy and Legal, who becomes Director of Charter Renewal, reporting to both the Director-General and the BBC Chairman.

Mr Thompson said the creation of the three boards meant he could reduce the BBC's Executive Committee from 16 people to a tighter Executive Board of nine (details below).

"The new structure remains flat. But the new Executive Board will be a real decision-making body with a strong sense of collective responsibility and accountability. I believe it is going to take decisions more quickly and will be more radical where necessary," he said.

Reviews will also be undertaken, reporting by the end of the year, into three main areas - commercial activities, production and commissioning and efficiencies and value for money.

John Smith will lead the review of all the BBC's commercial businesses, involving external stakeholders, addressing the key questions of what activities the BBC should undertake, whether it should do it alone or with partners, and how they can build more value back to the public.

Carolyn Fairbairn, Director of Strategy & Distribution, will head the Commissioning and Production Review.

This will ask the key question about how the BBC ensures the licence fee has access to the best ideas and delivers real public value.

It will look at the balance of in-house and independent programme supply, relations with commissioners and the advantages of having an in-house creative powerhouse.

Mr Thompson said he would also launch a BBC-wide programme looking at increasing efficiencies, costs controls, value for money and self-help.

"The financial picture is tight. Every bit of licence fee has been allocated to the end of the current Charter - and this year the BBC is spending more than its income. That was planned but nonetheless it's something to keep an eye on.

"As we are now in debt we need to keep a very careful control on cash - we cannot risk exceeding our statutory borrowing limit."

He said self-help would be the starting point to meet financial burdens like increased pension contributions and fresh calls on investment like helping build a digital Britain.

He also said that Greg Dyke's strategy to find ways of moving significant parts of the BBC's operations out of London and into the rest of the UK was right.

Director of Sport Peter Salmon and Director of Nations & Regions Pat Loughrey will continue to look at the costs and creative implications before settling on a plan and will report back in the autumn.

Notes to Editors

Previous Executive Committee

DG Greg Dyke
Deputy DG and Dir. World Service & Global News Mark Byford
Dir. Finance, Property & Business Affairs John Smith
Dir. Strategy & Distribution Carolyn Fairbairn
Dir. Policy & Legal Caroline Thomson
Dir. BBC People Stephen Dando
Dir. Marketing, Communications & Audiences (MC&A) Andy Duncan
Dir. Television Jana Bennett
Dir. Radio & Music Jenny Abramsky
Dir. New Media & Technology Ashley Highfield
Dir. News & Current Affairs Richard Sambrook
Dir. Drama, Entertainment & CBBC (DEC) Alan Yentob
Dir. Sport Peter Salmon
Dir. Factual & Learning (F&L) John Willis
Dir. Nations & Regions (N&R) Pat Loughrey
Chief Executive, BBC Worldwide Rupert Gavin
(Chief Exec, BBC Ventures - Roger Flynn, left March 2004)

New Executive Board and Committees

DG Mark Thompson
Deputy DG Mark Byford
Chief Operating Officer John Smith
Dir. Strategy & Distribution Carolyn Fairbairn
Dir. BBC People Stephen Dando
Dir. MC&A Andy Duncan
Dir. Television Jana Bennett
Dir. Radio & Music Jenny Abramsky
Dir. New Media & Technology Ashley Highfield

Creative Board

Chair Mark Thompson
Deputy DG Mark Byford
Creative Director and Dir. DEC Alan Yentob
Dir. F&L John Willis
Dir. Sport Peter Salmon
The directors of TV, Radio, New Media, N&R, MC&A
News divisional heads as appropriate

Journalism Board

Chair Mark Byford
Dir. News & Current Affairs Richard Sambrook
Dir. N&R Pat Loughrey
Dir. World Service & Global News To be confirmed
Directors of TV, Radio, New Media, F&L as appropriate

Commercial Board

Chair John Smith
Chief Exec, BBC Worldwide Rupert Gavin
Heads of BBC Broadcast, BBC Resources, BBC Vecta
Dir. MC&A Andy Duncan
Dir. Strategy & Distribution Carolyn Fairbairn

Charter Renewal task force


Lead-Director Caroline Thomson



Category: BBC
Date: 22.06.2004
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