BBC severance packages - Public Accounts Committee Contents


The creative talents of the many thousands of people who work for the BBC have helped maintain its reputation as the world's leading public service broadcaster. The BBC Executive and the BBC Trust have vital roles to play in protecting this reputation whilst providing value for money for licence fee payers. We were therefore dismayed to find that many departing senior managers received 'sweeteners' in their severance packages that far exceeded their contractual entitlements. Both the BBC Executive and the Trust have let down licence fee payers by allowing this culture to develop. The unedifying spectacle of witnesses from the BBC Executive and the BBC Trust disputing each other's evidence on severance pay revealed a serious breakdown in governance, record-keeping and accountability.

We welcome the decision taken by Lord Hall, shortly after he took up post as Director General of the BBC in April 2013, to cap severance payments at £150,000. Lord Hall also assured the Committee that pay in lieu of notice would be removed. These are very welcome steps towards more control and responsibility over severance payments that we hope will be administered in the interests of licence fee payers. These changes need to be matched by the BBC Trust addressing its failure to provide rigorous scrutiny and challenge, on behalf of licence fee payers, of the Executive's management of severance payments. Those recent revelations have left us with concerns about the effectiveness of the present governance arrangements at the BBC.

The doubts we expressed about some of the oral evidence given by witnesses during our hearing in July 2013 proved well-founded. We were very sceptical when the BBC's Director of Human Resources told us in July 2013 that she did not believe she had seen or been involved in preparing a note on the departure of the BBC's former Deputy Director General, Mark Byford. Around two months later, in September, the Director of Human Resources confirmed that she had in fact been involved in preparing the note. We remain concerned about the veracity of other parts of the oral evidence we heard. Misleading a select committee constitutes contempt of Parliament, which can have very serious consequences. Witnesses must ensure that their evidence is free from misstatement and where a correction is necessary, inform the Committee immediately.

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© Parliamentary copyright 2013
Prepared 16 December 2013