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July 11, 2013 5:58 pm
Mark Thompson, a former director-general of the BBC, has hit back at the description of events given by Lord Patten and other members of the BBC Trust over severance payouts at the public service broadcaster.
Mr Thompson, now chief executive of the New York Times Company, said there were “a couple of inaccuracies” in the testimony given by members of the trust to MPs at the public accounts committee on Wednesday. His comments risk creating a rift between the former director-general and the BBC’s governing body.
In a statement, Mr Thompson said: “I am looking forward to laying the facts in front of the public accounts committee in person, but there are a couple of inaccuracies that emerged in yesterday’s testimony to the PAC that I would like to clear up immediately.”
Speaking at the PAC, Lord Patten, chairman of the trust, voiced “shock and dismay” over the size of severance payments to former BBC senior managers.
The peer told MPs on the committee he was not told that some payouts exceeded contractual obligations and suggested that Mr Thompson be called by the committee to answer questions over payouts.
“I would be delighted if you had the former director-general in here to talk about this particular issue,” he told the committee.
Lord Patten’s comments followed widespread criticism of the BBC after a National Audit Office report revealed the broadcaster had paid £25m in severance payouts to 150 senior managers in the three years to the end of December.
In almost a quarter of the cases reviewed by the public spending watchdog, the BBC paid out more than the staff were entitled to.
Mr Thompson said: “The BBC Trust was fully informed in advance, in writing as well as orally, about the proposed severance packages for Mark Byford [former deputy director-general at the BBC] and Sharon Baylay [the BBC’s former director of marketing].
“Specifically, they were told that it was proposed that in both cases formal notice would not be served immediately but in the following year . . . The trust had every opportunity to express any concerns about the proposals before they were approved and indeed the final version of the cases included input from the trust.”
Mr Byford received a pay-off of £949,000, beyond his contractual entitlement, as part of moves to streamline management. Ms Baylay received a pay-off of almost £400,000.
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