Mark Thompson’s speech

It shouldn’t be a surprise, but Mark duly used his assault on our pensions benefits in his MacTaggart lecture as an opportunity to prove his virility to the BBC’s critics. The key section comes towards the end:

Right now, we’re going through one of the most painful changes of all – confronting the fact that the current pension arrangements for people inside the organisation are simply no longer affordable. I’m determined to end up with pension arrangements which meet the test of affordability in the long-term, but which are reasonable, fair and which will apply evenly across the organisation, no matter how senior or junior you are.

We’re in the middle of a consultation with everyone in the BBC and we’re approaching it with flexibility. If we can make adjustments in the proposals in the light of that consultation and still hit the test of affordability, we’ll do so – but hit it we must. But I don’t see how anyone could look at this process, compare it with pension reform in other organisations public or private, and still claim that we’re not prepared to grasp serious change.

Look at that last sentence. The assault on our pensions is proof that he’s tough enough to satisfy the BBC’s critics. It really sticks in my craw that the BBC’s loyal employees are being sacrificed to buy Mark a bit of insurance as he goes into negotiations with the government over the licence fee.

It was left to Jeremy Hunt to make the obvious point: the BBC would be far less politically exposed – far less in need of this kind of insurance – if its leadership hadn’t mishandled the whole issue of executive pay.

Despite all this, I thought that much of Thompson’s speech was excellent – a cogent argument for a public space separate from the market. And it had one good gag at the expense of James Murdoch, lampooning the positive reaction Murdoch’s own MacTaggart lecture got last year.

You know, you really shouldn’t encourage him. He was so pleased with his attack on the BBC here that a few months later he decided to sink his teeth into another of those sinister forces that lurks in the undergrowth of our national life. Yep, the British Library.

Do you know what they actually do at the British Library? They gather books together and then encourage people to come in and read them for free. The sick bastards.

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