BBC takes another hit over executive pay
Reeling from the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal, the BBC came in for another round of criticism on Thursday over the huge payoff it agreed for its former director general, who quit last month over the crisis.
The world's largest broadcaster barely had time to digest Wednesday's highly critical report into its handling of claims that late television star Savile was a predatory paedophile before being faced with new accusations, this time over its "cavalier use of public money".
In a new report, parliament's public accounts committee attacked the decision to give former BBC director-general George Entwistle £450,000 ($730,000, 550,000 euros) when he resigned -- twice as much as he was contractually entitled to.
And the MPs expressed shock at their discovery that since November 2010, the publicly-funded broadcaster has made severance payments worth more than £4 million to 10 other senior managers, including almost £1 million to one person.
"Public servants should not be rewarded for failure. But that was exactly what happened when the BBC Trust paid off the former director general, George Entwistle," said committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge.
Not only was he paid too much, but his leaving package included a year's private medical insurance and a contribution to the cost of his legal fees and public relations advice, the opposition Labour MP said.
"This cavalier use of public money is out of line with public expectations and what is considered acceptable elsewhere in the public sector," Hodge said.
Entwistle quit last month after just 54 days in the job after the BBC became embroiled in a major crisis over the way it reported child sex abuse.
The crisis was sparked by revelations in October that Savile, one of the BBC's star presenters who died last year aged 84, may have sexually abused hundreds of children over a 40-year period.
The BBC's flagship Newsnight programme dropped an investigation into the Savile allegations last year, but went ahead with the broadcast last month which falsely implicated a senior politician in separate abuse at a children's home.
An official report on Wednesday cleared the BBC of a cover-up over Savile but found the corporation had been gripped by "chaos and confusion" over the affair.
Responding to the parliamentary report on Thursday, the chairman of the BBC Trust, Chris Patten, defended the payoff to Entwistle as necessary to allow him to be quickly replaced.
"The legal advice we had was that if we fought it we'd fetch up with a bigger bill," he told BBC radio.
On the wider crisis, Patten vowed to push through wide-reaching reforms to the corporation in a bid to restore public trust.
"We have some work to do to rebuild that trust but I'm sure we'll do it," the former governor of Hong Kong said.
© 2012 AFP