BBC’s Thompson on defensive against Murdoch and Cameron

The BBC’s director general Mark Thompson has taken a sideswipe at News Corp’s James Murdoch, arguing that his 2009 MacTaggart lecture during the Edinburgh International 2009 Television Festival should be reassessed in light of recent events involving the media giant.

Writing in the Guardian ahead of the 2011 Television Festival, Thompson said the only way for broadcasters to ensure independence is with integrity. He was referring to Murdoch’s claim in 2009 that profit was “the only reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of independence”.

Thompson said the demise of News Corp’s UK tabloid the News of the World and the subsequent failure of the media giant to takeover UK pay TV operator BSkyB should not be used to debate the scale of public broadcaster the BBC. Instead, said the director general, it should lead the media industry to reflect on “matters of personal conduct and criminality, and above all…ethics and values.”

Thompson also criticised David Cameron for comments he made in the wake of the phone hacking scandal that led to the closure of the News of the World, in which he claimed the income of the BBC was so much more than that of independent TV companies there was a risk of BBC News becoming too dominant in the market. The BBC boss said the corporation actually takes a smaller share of UK broadcast revenues than ever before. He compared the BBC’s turnover of £5 billion (€5.7 billion) to Sky’s £6.6 billion.

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