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BBC Expenses – “Are you having a laugh?”

June 28, 2009

The onslaught about the BBC executive expenses is a pathetic farce drummed up by their enemies.

This is just more of a campaign by Murdoch and the Mail, who see an opportunity, with the possibility of top-slicing, to attack the institution.

The BBC is not in a position to put its case in the way the press are, exactly because of its relationship with the public via the licence fee. However, Kirsty Wark’s tough interview with Caroline Thomson on Newsnight, came as close as the BBC can to presenting a defence itself.

Frankly the amount of money the BBC executive spend as expenses is tiny for the business they are running. Now, I take the point it is “public money”, though not in the same way that Parliamentary expenses are – though you could argue that the Licence Fee is a form of taxation.

But do we expect the Head of BBC Vision to stay in a Travel Lodge? Do we really think the DG  is going to drive himself around London? How much less value would that give us for his time and salary if he were looking for parking space!

Yes, there might be a case for the salaries being out of kilter – John Birt was paid about £350,000 and Greg Dyke – his immediate successor – £500,000 – so yes there has been a huge inflation in the salaries. But Mark Thomson was attracted from Channel 4 and like the rest of us would want an increase in salary for a promotion. Why should the perceived status be compensation alone?

Another line of attack in todays Sunday Times appears to be the pensions. If the BBC has a well-managed scheme and employees stay for 30 years then that is the compensation they get. Yes a £2.7m pension pot is a lot, but after 30 years with one employer and earning six figure salaries for many years, thats what Mark Byford gets.

The BBC will ride this one out. They have much more support than elected MPs and Parliament and the BBC’s own openness must surely count in their favour. And they are right not to reveal star salaries for commercial reasons anymore than the News International or the Mail would tell you what they pay columnists? Anyway, did we not find all that out a year or two back?

Geoffrey Davies

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