Former BBC director general Mark Thompson has defended the £1m pay-off to his former deputy DG Mark Byford in 2010 while questioned during a Parliamentary hearing into the level of exit payments made to senior staff at the corporation during his reign.
Thompson disagreed that the BBC has “lost the plot” when it came to making severance payments to senior staff, with Margaret Hodge, chairman of the Commons public accounts committee, suggesting cronyism among staff members who had worked together for decades, highlighting the scale of Byford’s exit pay as an example.
Having agreed that Byford could not have sued the BBC over his entitlement, Thompson explained: “I was advised that the risk was one of constructive dismissal. This wasn't a time in my view for a complete restructuring of the BBC's approach to severance because we were in the middle of a number of senior redundancies."
He went on to admit that while he didn’t believe there was a “laxness” about the BBC’s strategy of making expensive payoffs to senior management, the description could be used to describe the payment of Byford and said that it “made sense”.
When asked why he didn’t offer a settlement of £500,000 instead, Thompson claimed that he wanted Byford fully focused on the job instead.
Thompson also claimed that he make the BBC Trust fully aware of settlements made and that he was placed under “ferocious pressure” by the Trust during his time as DG.
Meanwhile, chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten denied accusations that he lied over his knowledge of the exit payments, stating: "I'm accused of having misled the committee on something that I never knew and couldn't have been expected to know,” despite Thompson’s claims that he was informed of the payments.