Attenborough warns on BBC top pay
BBC stalwart presenter Sir David Attenborough has described the big salaries of its senior management as a "huge embarrassment" saying it would be a "catastrophe" if the Corporation's funding was cut, it was reported.
The 87-year-old spoke out in the wake of the latest controversy around executive pay at the BBC, where £60 million was paid to outgoing executives over an eight-year period, including more than £1 million to the former deputy director general Mark Byford, the Guardian said.
BBC executives past and present were roundly condemned by MPs on the Commons public accounts committee on Monday over the payoff scandal.
Sir David told the newspaper: "It doesn't require me to say that it is a huge embarrassment that salaries of that size are being paid in a public service organisation."
Asked if he was worried that the controversy could damage the BBC, he added: "Very much so. The BBC is in my view one of the most important strands in the cultural life of this country ... and it is going through a bad patch. I just hope that it will emerge from the bad patch with the standards that made it great still there."
One of the Corporation's-award winning journalists also hit out saying the controversy undermined its reputation around the world and is as damaging as the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal. BBC World News presenter Rajan Datar, who also presents a show on the World Service, said people were missing "one very important consequence of the depressing and demoralising charade that we call 'senior executives being held to account'".
In a letter to the BBC's in-house magazine Ariel, he said: "For those of us who work predominantly abroad, it's horrifying to see how the BBC's reputation is being undermined by this saga as much as by the sexual abuse scandals.... This is especially damaging in regimes that might look to find reasons not to be interviewed or find holes in the BBC's integrity."
Mr Datar, who was named Broadcast Travel Journalist of the Year in 2012, said most BBC employees "feel completely powerless" about the issue. He said he had calculated that the "amount most frequently cited amongst the pay-off deals" could have funded 50 of his half-hour shows on World News.
BBC bosses - past and present - faced a committee of MPs on Monday in a bid to get to the heart of who knew what and when about huge pay-outs to senior staff including the case of former deputy director-general Mark Byford who got a pay-off of £949,000. Former director-general Mark Thompson, one of seven witnesses called by the Public Accounts Committee, was forced to deny a charge the BBC had "lost the plot" over excessive pay-outs.
MP Margaret Hodge, who chairs the committee, told those present that the meeting was a "grossly unedifying occasion which can only damage the standing and the reputation of the BBC".