Belfast Telegraph

We deserve so much better from the BBC

Editor's Viewpoint

Few will disagree with the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Margaret Hodge who said the hearing into inflated pay-offs to executives at the BBC had been a grossly unedifying occasion. The broadcaster has been criticised, and rightly so, for the scale of the redundancy payments – £25m to 150 outgoing executives, some £2m more than their contracts stipulated that they should get.

The BBC is in an envious position, insulated from the rigours of these recessionary times through the licence fee. The scale of the salaries it paid out of the public purse are mind-boggling to the ordinary person and some might even view them as an affront at a time when all sectors of society are facing financial strictures.

What is even more disturbing is that decisions were being made by high-ranking executives seemingly without any checks or balances in place. There was the extraordinary situation of the PAC being told different stories by different people of who knew what and who approved what. The BBC Trust, which is supposed to be the licence fee payers' guardian, was not informed, according to one report, that senior executives were being paid over the odds to leave the broadcaster quietly. A former director general and the current chairman of the Trust directly contradicted each other's version of events. None of this will go down well with the government at a time when a debate on the renewal of the charter for the BBC is about to begin. Certainly there will be close scrutiny of how the corporation is governed. It certainly seems from the evidence presented to the PAC that the Trust has failings and there will be strong arguments that its future role should be, at least, in tandem with Ofcom.

The broadcaster is funded very generously by the public and this seems to have created an unreal bubble in which senior executives operated. That bubble has now been burst and the public will expect a much greater sense of realism when it comes to salaries and pay-offs in the future.

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