The £25 million question the BBC must answer
8 September 2013
Michelle Stanistreet, National Union of Journalists general secretary, has called for the Public Accounts Committee to get to the bottom of the conflicting accounts over the £25 million pay-offs to BBC executives and for the corporation to return to its roots as a public service broadcaster. She said:
“It may make for high drama, but today's Public Accounts Committee session will not see the BBC at its best. The all-party committee has had to recall the top brass of the corporation and the BBC Trust over conflicting accounts of who was responsible for signing off more than £25 million in redundancy payments to executives.
“That is £25 million from the pockets of licence-fee payers. Latest figures suggest that more than £5 million was spent on non-contractual payments.This was at a time when the BBC was planning to cut the consultation period for redundancies of lower-grade members of staff.
“This is an eye-watering figure to NUJ members working on a shoe string in local radio; a huge figure to the hundreds of staff who have lost their jobs in the so-called Delivering Quality First cost-cutting initiative; and an unbelievable figure to members working hard to create quality news and programmes, because they care about public service broadcasting.
“The PAC will have to get to grips with the unedifying spectacle of conflicting accounts of senior executives past and present and call to account those who are responsible.
“This sorry tale is one of a management that became out of touch with its staff and with the ethos of public service broadcasting. The BBC should have put the interests of licence-fee payers first, rather than fill the pockets of its own.
"My members are proud of the BBC’s reputation as one of the finest broadcasters in the world; but they fear this reputation is besmirched by the antics of the corporation’s high command who played fast and loose with the principles the corporation holds dear.
“The NUJ is in talks with Tony Hall, the new director general, to ensure that he takes the BBC back to its roots as a public service broadcaster which respects its staff and the people it is meant to serve.”
Former director general Mark Thompson has been called from New York, where he now works, to sit alongside his former colleagues after disputing their account of events. He has submitted a dossier of evidence to the committee, setting out his version of how Mark Byford, the former deputy director general, came to receive a £1 million pay-off and former marketing director Sharon Baylay left with £340,000.
The PAC has called as witnesses: Mark Thompson, former BBC director general, Marcus Agius, former chairman of the BBC executive board remuneration committee, Lord Patten, chairman, BBC Trust, Anthony Fry, BBC trustee, Sir Michael Lyons, former trust chairman, Lucy Adams, HR director, and Nicholas Kroll, director, BBC Trust.