Thursday, June 25, 2009

Top BBC bosses' expenses revealed!

Mark Thompson: "Public has a right to see" expenses

The BBC has published the expenses of some of its top executives, alongside the expenses and salaries of its 50 top-earning managers, on its website.

The corporation has revealed the figures in response to Freedom of Information requests.

The detail includes two family holidays which had to be cut short by BBC director general Mark Thompson, costing a total of more than £3,514.

The total paid for talent will also be revealed but not individual star fees.


The salaries and expenses of the BBC's top 100 executives and decision-makers will be published, quarterly, from September.

The expenses published on Thursday are those the executives paid for out of their own pocket before claiming back. They do not include any flights, hotels or other purchases booked directly through the BBC.

They include £2,236.90 claimed by Mr Thompson to fly back from a family holiday in Sicily, Italy, in October 2008 to deal with the row over lewd calls made to actor Andrew Sachs on Russell Brand's Radio 2 show.

He also chartered a private plane from Maine to Boston - at a cost of £1,277.71 - on 8 August 2004 to interrupt a family holiday to return to London to "deal with an urgent staff issue".

Other expenses detailed include:

• £99.99 claimed by Mr Thompson to pay for a bottle of vintage champagne given to Bruce Forsyth for his 80th birthday last year

• £1,137.55 claimed by former head of audio and music Jenny Abramsky for a dinner to celebrate Terry Wogan's knighthood in 2005

• £238 and £217 for iPods in 2005 and 2007 respectively claimed by former future media and technology director Ashley Highfield

• £500 claimed by BBC Vision director Jana Bennett after her handbag and contents were stolen on official BBC business. This cost was ultimately covered by insurers - not the BBC

• £231.55 claimed by Ms Bennett for a dinner with Jeremy Paxman to discuss the presenter's contract in July 2004

• £100 claimed by Ms Bennett for flowers for Jonathan Ross in May 2006

• £4.99 claimed by deputy director general Mark Byford for a book on the history of QPR football club in September 2007

Hospitality expenses claims - 2008/2009
Mark Thompson, director general: £8,040.73
Mark Byford, deputy director general: £1,429.24
Tim Davie, director, audio and video: £5,218.99
Jana Bennett, director, BBC Vision: £4,017.54
Zarin Patel, chief financial officer: £4,223.76
John Smith, chief executive, BBC Worldwide: £3,080.05
Caroline Thompson, chief operating officer: £3,072.38

The BBC already publishes the pay details of its executive board, as well as the pay and expenses of the corporation's governing body, the BBC Trust.

In a speech to the Chartered Institute of Public Finances and Accountancy's annual conference in Manchester, Mr Thompson said the trust and the BBC's executive board had "strongly encouraged us to look at whether we could and should go further in our practice of routine disclosure".

As a result, there would now be a breakdown of the pay and expenses of the "top 50 earners in BBC management" and 50 "top decision-makers", he said.

The 100 individuals, including "those with the greatest responsibility both for spending public money and for overseeing the BBC's services and operations", will be published in addition to the existing publication of the salaries of executive directors.

Martin Rosenbaum
Media attention will doubtless now focus on the BBC's reluctance to make public the same kind of information about highly-paid presenters or 'talent'

Mr Thompson said there was "a legitimate interest in how much the BBC spends on talent, including top talent".

"In future, we will disclose the total amount we spend on talent as a whole, and we will work on a plan to make our spend on talent more transparent so the public can monitor the direction of travel over time," he said.

But it would be wrong to disclose individual star salaries "in an industry where confidentiality is the norm", he added.

"There's a real danger that talent would migrate to broadcasters where confidential information about how much they are paid will not be disclosed."

Earlier this month, stars including Bruce Forsyth and Sir Terry Wogan were warned to expect their salaries to be cut when their contracts were renewed as part of the BBC's plan to save money.

Bruce Forsyth and Jonathan Ross
Stars such as Forsyth and Ross have been warned of pay cuts

A report in the Times on Thursday suggested the BBC was "refusing to reveal how much is spent on hospitality and gifts for its best-paid celebrities".

But in his speech Mr Thompson announced that a hospitality and gifts register would also be published.

"Public expectations about openness, trustworthiness and every kind of value for money are becoming more trenchant, more insistent and more vocal than ever before," Mr Thompson said.

'Maintain trust'

BBC correspondent Torin Douglas said there was "a great appetite" for this material in the wake of the MPs' expenses scandal.

There's a real danger that talent would migrate to broadcasters where confidential information about how much they are paid will not be disclosed
Mark Thompson, on not disclosing the fees of BBC stars

Privacy rights will prevent some claims - such as money spent on lunches to recruit people who did not go on to join the BBC - from being published.

But Mr Thompson was keen that as much information as possible was published, our correspondent added.

In an email to staff, Mr Thompson said: "I don't underestimate the extent to which this may feel uncomfortable for individuals," Mr Thompson said in the email.

"However, I firmly believe that these changes will help us maintain trust with the licence fee payer and will ensure the BBC continues to lead the way in transparency and disclosure."

Executives' individual expenses:

Mark Thompson, director general

Mark Byford, deputy director general

Jana Bennett, director, BBC Vision

Tim Davie, director, audio & music

Erik Huggers, director, future media & technology

Zarin Patel, chief financial officer

John Smith, chief executive officer, BBC Worldwide

Caroline Thomson, chief operating officer




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