Entertainment & Arts

Mark Thompson leaves BBC with licence fee warning

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Media captionOutgoing BBC director general Mark Thompson says the corporation was right to make cuts but quality programming must be 'paid for'

In his last day in office, BBC director general Mark Thompson has reiterated his belief that the corporation should not face further budget cuts.

Appearing on the Andrew Marr show, Mr Thompson said the BBC was "getting very, very close to the edge" after the latest round of cost-cutting.

"When you look around... it's very hard to see what more you can cut."

The next licence fee settlement will be a key issue for Mr Thompson's successor, George Entwistle.

Negotiations on the future cost of a TV licence are due to start in 2015-16.

Image caption Mr Thompson has taken a job at the New York Times

The outgoing director general said he still believed in "the idea of gathering public money together... to create really high quality content", despite large upheavals in the way people consume media.

At the moment, the licence fee is £145.50 per household. The figure was frozen for six years in 2010, resulting in a 16% real terms cut in BBC funds.

Mr Thompson said that, although the freeze had led to job cuts and the loss of some services, the BBC could not have ignored the wider economic situation in the UK.

"In the end, you can't want to be the national broadcaster and not go through some of the same experiences as the rest of the country."

He added the 16% cuts were in line with other "cultural institutions" like the British Museum and the National Theatre.

Image caption George Entwistle was formerly head of BBC Vision, which oversees the corporation's TV content

George Entwistle, formerly the director of BBC Vision, will take over from Mr Thompson on Monday morning.

One of his first appointments will be to visit the breakfast show on BBC 6 Music - the station earmarked, and then saved, from closure during Thompson's tenure.

Mr Entwistle will be paid much less than his predecessor, who earned £622,000 in his final year.

High salaries for the BBC's executives and star talent was a hot button issue for Mr Thompson, whose own salary dropped by about 25% during his eight years in office.

He acknowledged there was a "particular sensitivity" about how the BBC spends the licence fee.

"What the BBC tries to do in the way it runs itself, is it tries to be sensitive to what its owners, the British public, thinks.

"There's no question that we've seen over the last eight years, not just with the BBC but with the whole of public life, a real change in attitudes to these things, and we've tried to respond to it.

"I think the BBC will continue to wrestle with that challenge. How do you get the best sports rights, the best presenters, and the best creative leaders, and do that in a way that is acceptable to the public."

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