More pressure on BBC over payout
George Entwistle ... 54 days as director-general. Photo: Reuters
LONDON: The BBC has come under renewed attack for the pay-off of £450,000 ($700,000) it awarded to the former director-general George Entwistle, who resigned over the child sex abuse row last month.
Britain's parliamentary public accounts committee accused the public broadcaster of a "cavalier attitude" to the use of the licence fee with which it is funded.
They don't get it that they are being paid through the licence fee, which is a form of taxation, and they don't understand that people find this astonishing.Margaret Hodge, chairwoman of the public accounts committee
Mr Entwistle resigned on November 10 over damaging revelations in connection with a child sex abuse scandal linked to Jimmy Savile, and accusations of an attempted cover-up by the corporation.
The BBC management has defended the pay-off for Mr Entwistle, who was in the job for just 54 days, by saying the affair would have become even more costly if he had not gone quietly.
The amount was twice as much as what Mr Entwistle was entitled to, but it was paid for him to leave immediately and without the threat of legal action, the BBC has explained.
But on Thursday, Chris Patten, the chairman of the broadcaster's governing body, the BBC Trust, said the corporation had taken legal advice to ascertain whether some of the money could be recouped – even though he did not think that was very likely.
The chairwoman of the public accounts committee, Margaret Hodge, said the BBC risked inflaming "dangerous" calls for greater political oversight by displaying a "cavalier" attitude to funds.
"They don't get it that they are being paid through the licence fee, which is a form of taxation, and they don't understand that people find this astonishing," Ms Hodge said on Thursday.
Such conduct rekindled the argument of whether the public broadcaster should be subject to greater parliamentary or government control, Ms Hodge said.
"I think that is dangerous," she said.
On Wednesday, an independent report on the Savile affair cleared the BBC of allegations of an attempted cover-up, but said the corporation's management had been plunged into "chaos and confusion", and showed a lack of "leadership and organisation".
Savile, who is alleged to have abused hundreds of children during his 40 years at the BBC, died in October 2011. Nearly 500 complaints have been made to the police about him, including 31 of rape.