UK & World News
BBC Pay-Off Row Has 'Damaged Its Reputation'
A senior MP has given her damning verdict on the huge pay-offs given to some departing BBC executives, saying the saga has "damaged the reputation" of the corporation.
Seven senior BBC staff - past and present - appeared before the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to answer MPs' questions about who knew what about golden goodbyes which saw senior executives leave with thousands of pounds more than their contracts demanded.
But by the end of the three-hour hearing the committee's chairman, Margaret Hodge, said: "At best what we've seen is incompetence, lack of central control, a failure to communicate for a broadcaster whose job is communicating.
"At worst we may have seen people covering their backs by being less than open. That is not good."
She added that the meeting was an "unedifying occasion which can only damage the standing and the reputation of the BBC".
Earlier, former director general Mark Thompson told MPs the BBC had not "lost the plot" when it agreed a pay-off of almost £1m for his former deputy.
Mr Thompson said the move, which saw Mark Byford leave the BBC with a total payout of £949,000, represented "value for money".
He said the pay-off was part of a move to axe senior executives which would give the BBC "£19m of savings for every year into the future" and he believed he "had the full support of the BBC Trust" to order it.
Ms Hodge said people were looking at BBC management in "dismay" and asked Mr Thompson if the BBC had, under his management, lost the plot.
He said: "I do not think we lost the plot."
Ms Hodge asked Mr Thompson why Mr Byford needed an extra payment saying: "Why was £500,000, which is for most people mega bucks, not enough?"
Mr Thompson, who said he did not believe there was any "favouritism" in deciding pay-offs, said the pay-off to Mr Byford was needed so he would remain "focused" on his job and not be distracted.
He said he had inherited a way of doing things at the broadcaster, telling MPs: "I did not loosen the financial controls in this area."
At one point during the tense hearing, BBC human resources boss Lucy Adams apologised for partially inaccurate evidence at an earlier hearing.
Ms Hodge later said: "We will have no more lies this afternoon."
In written evidence published ahead of the hearing, Mr Thompson accused BBC Trust boss Lord Patten and trustee Anthony Fry of "fundamentally misleading" committee members at a previous hearing.
At their last appearance before the committee, Lord Patten and Mr Fry told MPs that members of the Trust were not always included in decision-making.
Lord Patten said he took the charge of misleading the committee "very strongly".
He said his induction to the job included no references to severance pay and a media briefing he was given before the publication of the annual report said pay-offs to Mr Byford and former marketing boss Sharon Baylay were "contractual payments".
He said: "I'm in the position in which I'm accused of having misled the committee on something I didn't know and couldn't have been expected to know."
Marcus Agius, former chairman of the BBC Executive Board Remuneration Committee, also described the pay-off to Mr Byford was "value for money" to the BBC.
Sir Michael Lyons, former chairman of the BBC Trust, defended Mr Thompson's decision to make savings by agreeing to generous severance packages.