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BBC Chairman, Interim Boss to Face Questions in U.K. Parliament

Tim Davie - H 2012
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A parliamentary committee looking at the Jimmy Savile scandal and the recent BBC crisis has added Chris Patten and Tim Davie to its list of witnesses.

LONDON - A British parliamentary committee looking at the BBC's handling of the Jimmy Savile scandal and the resignation of the public broadcaster's director general earlier this month has added the top two BBC executives to its list of witnesses.

Tim Davie, the BBC's acting director general, and Chris Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, the broadcaster's governing body, will give evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on Tuesday, ITV reported.

The news is seen as a signal that the committee, chaired by Conservative member of parliament John Whittingdale, wants to get to the bottom of some widely criticized recent decisions by the BBC.

Whittingdale has publicly questioned some of the BBC's decision making amid one of the biggest crises ever at the biggest British news organization.

Whittingdale's parliamentary committee will on Thursday question other BBC executives, including CFO Zarin Patel, particularly about the $715,000 (£450,000) exit package for George Entwistle, who resigned as director general after just 54 days in the top post.

Entwistle announced his departure on a Saturday night following a mistaken report in flagship news show Newsnight that had connected a British politician to a child abuse scandal.

The BBC Trust agreed to give him a full year's salary, double his entitlement under his employment contract. The news drew negative reactions from politicians and others, with Maria Miller, the British culture secretary, calling the pay-off "hard to justify." Patten is expected to face questions about the pay-out.

The BBC has also been criticized for its delayed reaction to allegations that late former TV host Savile sexually abused young people, including on BBC premises, decades ago.

The BBC Trust in a meeting late last week confirmed that it wants to pick a new director general quickly - "within weeks," as Patten has said. As of early Wednesday, it hadn't set a format for the hiring process and when it would start interviewing candidates, according to a source.

Outside candidates, including Ed Richards, the CEO of U.K. media regulator Ofcom, who lost out to Entwistle in the final round of the hiring process over the summer, are expected to be in focus during the interview process.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai