Page last updated at 16:41 GMT, Thursday, 17 September 2009 17:41 UK

Thompson 'puzzled' over criticism

Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson admitted the BBC has its faults

BBC director general Mark Thompson has hit back at Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw's comments about the BBC Trust, calling them "frankly puzzling".

Mr Bradshaw has said he is "concerned" for the regulatory body and has called for it to be eventually scrapped.

He added the organisation could not be both "regulator and cheerleader".

Mr Thompson said: "The people Ben should ask this question of is those colleagues of his in the present cabinet who invented the BBC Trust."

The BBC boss added that he would "fight tooth and nail to preserve our broad public remit".

Mr Thompson said most of the BBC's new services had not been approved by the BBC Trust, but by the government "of which Ben is a member".

He added: "Indeed, the government asked the BBC to launch a range of new services to help with their policy of encouraging the public to move to digital television and radio.

At a time when the future of so much of the rest of media is so uncertain, the idea of the BBC still works
Mark Thompson, BBC Director General

"Ben's surprise at these services is itself surprising."

Mr Thompson admitted the corporation has "faults and failings, and of course there are plenty of them".

But added: "At a time when the future of so much of the rest of media is so uncertain, the idea of the BBC still works.

"It works in terms of investment in production, in training, in talent. "It works in innovation. But above all, it works for the public."

Earlier BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons told BBC Radio 4 he "does not accept that characterisation" of the trust outlined by Mr Bradshaw.

He added that it was the "eyes, ears and voice of the licence fee payer".

Speaking on the Today programme, Sir Michael insisted that the trust was there "to reshape the BBC for public interest and to protect its independence".

'Right balance'

Mr Bradshaw raised his concerns in a speech to the Royal Television Society in Cambridge on Tuesday.

"I am concerned about the regulatory structure of the BBC. I don't think that it is a sustainable model in the long term," he said.

Sir Michael replied that the BBC was "just like any other company in the country" in trying to make sure the "managers are focused on the interest of the share holders."

He added: "That's exactly the job that the trust is here to do, except our shareholders are the people who pay the licence fee. So there's no question here about trying to get the right balance."

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

Mr Bradshaw, a former BBC journalist, has clashed with the BBC since becoming Culture Secretary in June.

He supports plans to use part of the TV licence fee to fund regional ITV news, a move known as "top-slicing", which BBC management is opposed to.

When Sir Michael was asked about the relationship between the BBC and the government, he said: "The BBC would always want to co-operate with the government of the day.

"And as far as I'm concerned we continue to do that, but we start from the position of not feeling that we've got to keep ministers happy."

He also suggested that the government had taken issue with the trust because it had the "temerity to go to the public, to ask their views about some government proposals and we've come up with answers which the ministers don't like".



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