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Payouts damaged BBC, says Bowen

Bumper pay packets handed out to BBC executives have caused "massive damage" to the corporation, according to its Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.

The journalist, one of the most familiar faces on the BBC's news programmes, said the issue of high pay had given the corporation's opponents "sticks and stones to chuck at us".

Director-general Tony Hall introduced a cap on pay-offs of £150,000 when he took over following the furore over the £470,000 paid to his predecessor George Entwistle.

Mr Entwistle was paid a year's salary when he left the BBC's top job, even though he had only been in place for 54 days before resigning over his handling of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Other senior figures who walked away with huge sums include former chief operating officer Caroline Thomson, who got £ 680,000, and d eputy director general Mark Byford, who departed the BBC with a total payout of £949,000.

Bowen told the Guardian: "The over- remuneration of people was a huge mistake and it's cau sed massive damage to the BBC. It's caused it internally, because the vast majority of people who work at the BBC do not get brilliantly paid.

"But the massive salaries given to top management angered people on the shop floor, exaggerated the 'them and us' feeling that there was a chauffeur-driven top of the corporation with enormous salaries and massive bonuses. And that caused a lot of resentment and still does. I resented it personally."

Bowen, who joined the BBC as a trainee, has covered conflicts in the Gulf, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, Somalia and Rwanda throughout his career.