BBC chief Mark Thompson swaps Auntie for the New York Times Company
MARK Thompson, the outgoing director general of the BBC, is to take the helm of one of the most illustrious newspaper companies in the United States.
The 55-year-old, who started at the corporation as a trainee and rose to become one of the most powerful figures in British broadcasting, will become president and chief executive of the New York Times Company this autumn.
Mr Thompson, who announced in March that he was to step down from his role at the BBC, described his new calling as a “real privilege” and vowed to explore new ways of delivering journalism.
The appointment will bring to an end Mr Thompson’s colourful eight-year reign at the top of the BBC, where he reshaped the organisation for the digital age with the introduction of the hugely successful iPlayer and transferred vast tranches of programme-making away from London to Glasgow, Manchester and beyond.
However, he also incurred the wrath of unions after implementing a series of controversial cost-cutting measures which will see the BBC shed 2,000 jobs and a fifth of its budget by 2017.
Mr Thompson’s three-decade career at the broadcaster – unbroken but for a two-year stint at Channel 4 – will end in November, when he will relocate to New York to take up his new position.
His replacement at the BBC will be George Entwistle, who has previously been a current affairs programme-maker and for the past year has been in charge of the corporation’s television output as head of BBC Vision.
Mr Thompson said: “The New York Times is one of the world’s greatest news providers and a media brand of immense future potential both in the US and around the world. It is a real privilege to be asked to join the Times Company as it embarks on the next chapter in its history.
“I’m particularly excited to be coming to the New York Times Company as it extends its influence digitally and globally.
“I look forward to working with the board, Arthur [Sulzberger, chairman] and his highly talented management team to build on the success that has already been achieved and to explore new ways of bringing journalism of exceptional quality, integrity and depth to readers and users everywhere.”
BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said: “I am sure that Mark will prove a real asset to the New York Times. He is a hugely experienced media executive and will bring insight, flair and drive to the job. I wish him the very best of luck in his new role.”
Like many traditional media companies, his new employers hope to boost revenue from digital products while contending with declining advertising revenue from print newspapers.
The firm, which also owns the International Herald Tribune and the Boston Globe newspapers, began charging for online access to its flagship titles last year. However, earlier this month it announced a net loss of £56.1 million for the second quarter of 2012, with an 8 per cent drop in print advertising revenues and a 4 per cent decrease in digital ad revenues.
Mr Sulzberger said: “Mark is a gifted executive with strong credentials whose leadership at the BBC helped it to extend its trusted brand identity into new digital products and services.
“Our board concluded that Mark’s experience and his accomplishments at the BBC made him the ideal candidate to lead the Times Company at this moment in time when we are highly focused on growing our business through digital and global expansion.”
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