Director General of the BBC Mark Thompson, ranked one of the most powerful people in the world, has received an honorary doctorate from Edge Hill University.
He received the award for outstanding achievements in the world of media and broadcasting. As leading figure in the global media market, he is responsible for the BBC’s services across television, radio and online, which includes a global team of 25,000 people who devise, create and produce over 400,000 hours of content each year.
His award was conferred from the University’s Chancellor Professor Tanya Byron in a ceremony on the Ormskirk campus today ( 22nd July). Listen to his interview here.
Accepting the doctorate, he said: “I feel very honoured to receive this award. We are spearheading the biggest ever initiative to support broadcasting outside London – the new, world-class base at MediaCity in Salford. To make it a success we have to have people with the right skills and talents and we have been building partnerships with universities for this. Edge Hill University is a trusted member of this partnership with fantastic facilities and students with real potential. We have 500 new vacancies to fill so there will be plenty of opportunities. This partnership with Edge Hill means that we will be talent-scouting.
“What I’d say to people going into media is that if you are dedicated, have energy and confidence, it’s a fantastic field to work in.”
He used the word ‘enlightenment’ to describe Edge Hill University and during his visit to the campus and added: “What is happening here is exciting, you can see the ambition and there is a real buzz about the place.”
Mark Thompson comes from a family with strong ties to Ormskirk and was schooled in the north-west at Stonyhurst College. Since joining the BBC as a production trainee in 1979, Mark has held senior editorial, producing and programme- making roles on programmes such as Watchdog and Panorama and introduced the likes of the Royle Family and the international documentary strand, Storyville.
Since taking on the role of Director General in 2004, Mark has re-shaped the BBC to meet the challenge of the digital age, ensuring that the BBC remains a leading innovator with the launch of services such as Freeview and BBC iPlayer. At the same time he has led the Corporation’s biggest ever efficiencies programme, which has helped deliver a more disciplined BBC, making the organisation more accountable to licence fee payers and investing the monies in creating distinctive and creative content for audiences across the UK.
In 2009 Thompson was ranked as the 65th most powerful person in the world by Forbes magazine.
His role hasn’t been without controversy. In 2008, he had to cut short a family holiday to return to Britain to deal with the Russell Brand Show prank telephone calls row and suspended the BBC’s highest paid presenter Jonathan Ross for three months. He also publically declared that if any of his staff deceived the public he would “show people the door” in a bid to restore confidence after it emerged in 2007 that the BBC had been involved in a number of editorial guideline breaches. He also defended his decision to invite BNP leader to appear on Question Time arguing that he would not be bound by political censorship.
Explaining how he deals with challenges like these and keeping such a large organisation under control, he said: “With a creative organisation it’s a bit like a big university. You don’t want to control it to the point where nothing really happens; you take risks and push the boundaries. I think that things go well in the organisation generally and if things go wrong you have the strategies in place to deal with it.”