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Post MacTaggart Q&A with Mark Thompson

BBC Director General Mark Thompson answered questions at the Edinburgh International Television Festival today as delegates reflected on his James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture last night.

In an hour-long session, Thompson answered questions from Channel 4 Newscaster Krishnan Guru-Murthy and from the floor on areas such as BBC pay and pensions, the BBC's move to Salford, NAO access, Strictly Come Dancing and BBC 6 Music.

On pay, Thompson rejected suggestions that the BBC had moved too little too late, pointing out that it had been one of the first public bodies to recognize that changes had to be made, with bonuses and pay frozen more than a year ago. The challenge for the BBC was how to attract the best people. But Thompson said working for the BBC was a privilege and there was no debate that people at the BBC should be earning less than at competitors.

He restated his commitment to transparency and public scrutiny. However in areas where the BBC is competing directly with other broadcasters, for example sports rights, he warned that disclosure could put the BBC at a disadvantage and work against the public benefit. Thompson said the public absolutely had the right to see how much the BBC spent on top talent, however, he questioned whether publishing exact salaries for artists and contributors was what the public wanted and whether it would lead to better presenters.

Thompson also defended the BBC's decision to create a new media centre in Salford, saying that bringing 2300 people to the area in a state of the art broadcasting centre would allow people to work together in completely new ways to make the best programmes in the world, redefining the BBC.

He said he understood that for staff, the fact of moving from London to Manchester was a significant deal. However, Thompson said he believed ultimately Salford would be a great place to work and this transitional period would be seen differently with hindsight. Salford would be judged when it was up and running.

On Sky Thompson said in his speech he was making the point that far from being an enemy, Sky was a real success story. But, together with the whole industry, Sky could be doing more to invest in British content.

Thompson concluded that there were significant projects happening at the BBC with which he had been personally associated with, such as the move to Salford, and he wanted to see these through.

You can follow the @bbcpress and @AboutTheBBC Twitter feeds for updates from the event.


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