BBC chief operating officer Caroline Thompson is due to leave the corporation at the end of September as part of a senior restructure under new director general George Entwistle.
Entwistle, who took up his new role on Monday, confirmed that Thompson’s role would be axed as part of a drive to turn the BBC into “a more creative organisation, led and managed in a radically simplified way”.
“I intend to change the way we’re led to put the emphasis where it belongs – on creative people doing creative things; on our audiences and the exceptional quality of work they deserve,” Entwistle told BBC staff.
“I believe we owe our audiences a determined effort to raise the creative quality of what we do.”
Under his plans, Entwistle will close the BBC’s operations division, which Thompson headed, with immediate effect. All operational and finance functions will now be brought into one business division under the chief financial officer.
At the same time, Entwistle said he will reduce the BBC management board from 25 to just 12 people.
Thompson, who was rumoured to be in the running for the director general role prior to Entwistle’s appointment, first joined the BBC in 1975. She left to do a stint at Channel 4 in the mid-1980s before returning in 1996, and took on the COO role in 2006.
During her time at the BBC, Thompson has helped oversee major infrastructure projects, including digital switch-over, the move of more than 3,000 staff to the BBC’s new northern base in Salford, and the development of the BBC’s two main sites in central and west London.
She also helped negotiate the latest BBC licence fee settlements in 2007 and 2010 – the latter sparking a major cost-cutting exercise at the organisation dubbed Delivering Quality First, after the government froze the licence fee.
Thompson was on the BBC’s executive board, reported directly to the director general and was on a £307,000pa salary. She said: “It has been an immense privilege to be part of the leadership of the BBC – the world’s best public service broadcaster. I wish George and his colleagues the best of luck as they take the BBC forward. I know it will be safe in their hands.”