BBC Kicks off Search for New Boss With Digital, Global Skills, Lower Pay

Mark Thompson
Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

The successor of Mark Thompson as director-general needs "the wisdom of Aristotle," says the man who will make the appointment, and a former BBC head warns that the job causes lack of sleep and intense public scrutiny.

LONDON - The search for a new director-general for the BBC kicked off this week after Mark Thompson last month confirmed he would leave the reins of the British public broadcaster to someone else after the Summer Olympics. But all indications are that it won't be an easy process - or an easy job, for that matter.

Among the BBC's challenges have been how to redefine the broadcaster's public service duties in the digital age, how to make it more effective and less bureaucratic and how to position it amid increased competition and globalization.

BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten, who will appoint the successor, was quoted in press reports over the past week as saying that the new director general will be paid less than the £671,000 that Thompson makes and needs "the wisdom of Aristotle and the striking power of [soccer star] Wayne Rooney."

The Guardian said that an ad for the job, which kicked off the formal process, emphasized that the new BBC head needs an "international mindset" and multi-media skills, but does not necessarily need to have been a journalist or programmer.

In terms of digital media, the ad said that the BBC was looking for an executive who can make the "most of new technologies and the global commercial possibilities that they bring."

The final date for applications is May 7.

One person whose name have repeatedly come up in connection with the job has said he won't actively go after the post. Mark Scott, managing director of Australian public broadcaster ABC, highlighted that he just began his second term last July, according to The Australian. "My contract has four and a half years to run," the paper quoted him as saying. "I fully expect the next director-general to be British."

Meanwhile, a former BBC boss late in the week said that the position is a particularly tough one.

Greg Dyke, who served as BBC director-general from 2000 to 2004, wrote in the Daily Telegraph that the BBC boss won't sleep and must be ready to be a punching bag.

"The first requirement is that if you are someone who struggles to sleep at night, don’t even think of applying - because there’s a fair chance you’ll never sleep again," he wrote. "Being director-general of the BBC means you do all the normal things a chief executive in a big organization does, plus you become a public punchbag for anyone upset by, or politically opposed to, what the BBC stands for."

Dyke also highlighted that the BBC boss has no real private life given intense public scrutiny. "Before I even started in the job, one tabloid ran a holiday picture of me and my children being pulled on an inflatable banana behind a speed boat," he remembered. "When I complained that they shouldn’t show pictures of my kids, their excuse was that they didn’t know they were my kids – as if I just look for any old kids to play with on the beach."

Still Dyke said there are good reasons for talented executives to apply. "It is a great job in a great organization full of talented and enthusiastic people who believe in what it stands for," he wrote.