Mark Thompson Says He Has New York Times' Support After BBC Scandal

BBC Director General, Mark Thompson, waits to meet production staff as the BBC Burmese Service makes the first ever broadcast
BBC Director General, Mark Thompson, waits to meet production staff as the BBC Burmese Service makes the first ever broadcast from the new Broadcasting House in central London on March 11, 2012. AFP PHOTO/CARL COURT (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)

By Kate Holton

LONDON, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Incoming New York Times chief Mark Thompson said on Wednesday his U.S. employer had given him full support since a sexual abuse scandal erupted at Britain's BBC where he had been in charge until last month.

His handling of the matter at the British institution should not prevent him from starting the new job, he told Reuters in a telephone interview from New York.

The BBC has been rocked by accusations of sexual abuse involving a late TV host, Jimmy Savile, and claims it had covered up his alleged crimes and dropped its own news expose whilst Thompson was in charge.

The furore prompted the public editor of the New York Times to question whether the Briton was now fit to take up the role of president and chief executive of the respected American company on Nov. 12 as planned.

"All of my colleagues here in the management team of the New York Times have been very supportive on this and more broadly as I prepare to take on the job," he said. "I've been very well supported as the incoming CEO of this company."

Thompson said he did not know about the investigation by the BBC's flagship Newsnight programme into Savile, one of the broadcaster's best known stars for decades, and had had no involvement in the decision to axe the report.

"I do not believe there is anything that I've done in relation to this matter which should in anyway impinge on my abilities to fully discharge the responsibilities I'll have at the New York Times," he said.

Thompson said he had approached his new employers to explain his role at the BBC and why he had not dealt with such an issue, despite being the director general and editor in chief of the world-renowned organisation.

Under the structure of the corporation, such editorial matters would be dealt with by the BBC News division and would not normally reach the corporate level, he explained.

The BBC is a sprawling organisation with 22,000 employees working at its eight national TV channels, 50 radio stations and an extensive website.

"Not knowing what they (Newsnight) had, it's very hard to judge whether it should have been referred or not," he said. (Editing by Maria Golovnina)



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