Entertainment & Arts

Key quotes from Mark Thompson's speech

BBC Director General Mark Thompson delivered the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the 2010 Edinburgh International Television Festival. Here are some of his key quotes.

ON THE FUTURE OF THE BBC

  • "In a year or so's time, there will be a debate about the future level of the licence fee. For the BBC, I believe this will be a moment for realism and a recognition of the scale of the challenge facing licence payers and the country as a whole."
  • "Do not believe anyone who claims that cutting the licence fee is a way of growing the creative economy... A pound out of the commissioning budget of the BBC is a pound out of UK creative economy. Once gone, it will be gone forever."
  • "Radical and rapid change inside the BBC is... essential."

ON THE BBC'S CRITICS

  • "Systematic press attacks on broadcasters, and especially on the BBC, are nothing new... but the scale and intensity of the current assaults does feel different."
  • "But - perhaps surprisingly - there's no evidence that any of this is having any effect on public attitudes to the BBC at all."
  • "The same commercial and political forces which are undermining the independence of the public broadcasters in other European countries - Italy and France spring to mind - are at work here as well. In the UK, they know that a frontal assault will fail so they adopt different tactics... Sometimes calls for transparency turn out to be a cloak for something else."

ON THE BBC'S RELATIONSHIP WITH ITS AUDIENCE

  • "On the Tuesday after the General Election, over 17 million viewers joined us on BBC One during the evening to see events unfold. They came to BBC One because, along with ITV1, it remains one of the nation's front rooms."
  • "Across the UK population, 71% of people say they're glad the BBC exists."
  • "[Audiences] want the best and they want it all year round, which is why nowadays at the BBC we play pieces like Sherlock, The Normans and Rev in high summer."
  • "The public don't seem to want fewer or thinner services from the BBC. Indeed, as we've seen this year with 6 Music, proposals to remove even niche services can be greeted with real dismay. "

ON SKY

  • "Sky has an annual turnover of £5.9bn, of which £4.8bn is from its core retail subscription business. That revenue line alone is £1.1 billion more than the BBC's UK public service turnover."
  • "Sky's marketing budget is larger than the entire programme budget of ITV1. As a proportion of Sky's own turnover and its profits, its investment in original British content is just not enough."
  • "With Sky News and Sky Arts, the company has... shown a commitment to services which share many values with the BBC and the other PSBs. Sky is not the enemy of quality British Television - it's an important provider of it.
  • "But when it comes to investing in original British production, it's a different picture. When ITV was the dominant commercial player in UK television, it poured money into original programming and often in key genres - like drama in the 1980s and 1990s - it did a better job than the BBC."
  • "It's time that Sky pulled its weight by investing much, much more in British talent and British content. "

ON CUTTING COSTS

  • "We've committed to reduce senior manager numbers by a fifth by the end of next year. That's a minimum. If we can go further, we will."
  • "We will take the money we save by all these measures and invest it in the central mission of the BBC - which is to commission, make and distribute the best and most creative content to the British public."