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BBC’s consumer champion role compromised by payout scandal

[14 Jan 2014] For anyone who admires the BBC’s record as a consumer champion in investigative shows like Watchdog, Inside Out, Rip-Off Britain, You and Yours, and Moneybox, the scale of the corporation’s enormous pay-offs during its recent clear-out of senior managers is bad news.

Mark Byford, deputy director-general, was handed £949,000 – of which £300,000 was more than he was contractually entitled to, supposedly in order to keep him ‘fully focused’ until his departure. Jana Bennett, executive director, walked away with £687,000. Caroline Thomson, chief operating officer, trousered £680,000. Roly Keating, director of archive content, got a mere £376,000 but was so ashamed when he found out how the amount had been calculated he returned it less the tax paid.

The director of human resources, £332,000-a-year Lucy Adams, who oversaw all this largesse, was mauled by the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) after it found a key part of her evidence to be false. She told the PAC she knew nothing of an email about the Byford payment, but later it emerged she was one of the email’s main authors.

So when brave sleuths like Matt Allwright of Watchdog confront some rogue trader with proof of their dodgy dealings, what will their defence be? Simple: ‘We were just putting our snouts in the trough, old son, like those departing executives of yours at the BBC – what’s the difference? Why don’t you buzz off and investigate them instead of bothering me?’

Since the BBC has to include the trader’s defence in the programme and on its website, the corporation is going to look very silly indeed.

[Sources: Times and Daily Mail, 16 Dec 2013]

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