Thompson comments on phone hacking scandal

BBC topper Mark Thompson has attacked News Corp. exec James Murdoch, and what he claims is BSkyB’s success in making the paybox’s size a no-go zone for U.K. politicians.

Writing on the eve of the Edinburgh Television Festival, which bows today, Thompson referred back to the gabfest’s 2009 MacTaggart lecture given by Murdoch. In that speech the BSkyB chairman famously declared that “the only reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of (journalistic) independence is profit.”

In an article for the Guardian paper, the BBC director general said that in the light of the phone hacking and police corruption scandal at the News of the World, the defunct tabloid owned by News Corp.’s U.K. subsidiary News Intl., the phrase had taken on “an almost tragic irony.”

He said that if Murdoch were giving the MacTaggart lecture today, he would need to amend the word “profit” for “integrity.”

As members of parliament prepare for new media legislation expected next year, Thompson said that the “broader debate must not deflect us from the most obvious and urgent matters arising from the News of the World case … matters of personal conduct and criminality, and, above all, of ethics and values.”

Turning to the highly charged topic of the BBC’s own size, Thompson claimed that the “BBC today takes a smaller share of U.K broadcast revenues than at any time in its history,” and that October’s license fee deal will lead to more cuts.

Thompson said BSkyB’s £6.6 billion ($10.8 billion) revenue means that the paybox is already the largest player in British broadcasting compared with the BBC’s revenue of $8.2 billion.

Despite this, BSkyB had been “uncannily successful in persuading politicians to leave it out of the equation when they debate economic and editorial dominance,” Thompson said.

The scandal has highlighted close ties between the Murdoch conglom and politicians, including prime minister David Cameron and his predecessors, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.

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