Trust in the BBC at an all time low, rightly so too

This week the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee listened to oral evidence from the BBC on the National Audit Offices critical report on the severance and wider benefits for BBC managers.

Meanwhile, this week, Peter Kellner reported, “For the first time since YouGov started tracking public trust in British institutions, more people distrust BBC journalists (47%) than trust them (44%)”.

This is a reflection of the public response to the series of BBC disasters. This time a cavalier, and possibly fraudulent misuse of licence fee payer’s funds, where 150 BBC managers received payoffs amounting to £25million.

Just in November last year, my indignation at the shameful, and lazy reporting standards on the McAlpine affair prompted a multi-part post, Part 1, and Part 2.

Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, had this revealing exchange with the BBC’s Human Resources Director, Lucy Adams

Q96 Chair: Ms Adams, you keep coming back to that. I am sure you have done lots of good things. You are paid a lot of money; you are paid over £300,000 as an executive of the BBC. The thing that really sticks in our gullet is that in all these cases-25% according to the sample from NAO-you paid over the contractual commitment. We can cut it all sorts of ways. In the three years since you have been responsible, there have been 150 senior managers and £25 million. I think I am right in saying that is half the budget of Radio 4. It is two thirds of the budget of Radio 1. It is a heck of a lot of money that you have allowed to go out of the door, which could have been used to produce good public service broadcasting.

Lucy Adams: In the vast majority of those cases in the £25 million they were being paid, admittedly significant, amounts of money based on their contractual entitlement. In a number of cases-

Q97 Chair: No, you went above that. The contract was lousy; we know that. But what is particularly galling is that you went above that. We can’t understand why you went above it. Mark Thompson will come and he will give evidence. We might even have Mr Agius come and give evidence, too. What I cannot understand from you, with all of your experience-you were at Eversheds beforehand so you have not come out of an easy organisation-is why you did not just put your foot down? You are head of HR.

Lucy Adams: I think the overwhelming focus was to get numbers out of the door as quickly as possible to save-

Q98 Chair: But it is public money. It is the licence fee payer’s money. It is not your money; it is our money.

Towards the end of the committee’s deliberations was agreement that they would seek the names of the 150 managers. Spot on. When the NAO’s report says the following, we the licence fee payers should expect nothing less.

Page 26 of NAO report, section 2.12: “A severance payment of £219,000, which was £141,000 more than the individual was entitled to.”

Figure 10 on page 29: [Click to enlarge]

BBC Pension Augmentation

One recipient of the BBC payoff package, Roly Keating returned his payoff. Sadly, both Mark Byford £950.000 payoff, and Caroline Thompson £670,000 payoff, felt disinclined to follow.

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