BBC Parliament Hearing: How the U.K. Newspapers Covered It

BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten
BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten
 

LONDON – BBC director general Tony Hall has stabilized operations and morale at the public broadcaster in recent months following the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal, missteps of the news division and the short-lived tenure of his predecessor.

But severance payments to former BBC top executives that exceeded contractual guarantees and were made before Hall took charge in April continued to cast a shadow over the broadcaster on Tuesday.

A late Monday parliamentary committee hearing about the severance issue made the front or main news pages of many British newspapers on Tuesday, and many of the headlines were critical of the BBC and its supervisory body, the BBC Trust.

The Sun, the tabloid that is part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, in its headline suggested what BBC could stand for if not British Broadcasting Corporation. "British Bullsh*t Corporation," the paper titled. "Beeb bosses savaged over £25 million payoffs scandal."

The Times, the other big British paper in the News Corp stable, led its Page 1 coverage with the headline: "Accusations fly as BBC bosses argue over payoffs."

The Independent in its splash on the topic made reference to the annual license fee that U.K. taxpayers must pay to help fund the BBC. "A license to waste taxpayers' money," its headline read.

The Guardian went with a headline that referenced Monday comments from Margaret Hodge, the head of the House of Commons public accounts committee, and other members of parliament (MPs). They had suggested that BBC Trust members seemed incompetent, with Hodge complaining that BBC bosses were "squabbling on the head of a pin" about who was responsible for approving the higher-than-guaranteed severance payments. "MPs berate 'incompetent squabblers' at top of BBC," the Guardian headline summarized.

And the Daily Telegraph led with a dispute over a particularly big severance deal that was one of the focal points of Monday's hearing. "BBC at war as grandees turn on each other in the £1m pay-off blame game," its headline said.

Members of the parliamentary committee on Monday grilled current and former BBC top executives, including former director general Mark Thompson, who is now CEO of The New York Times Co., human resources manager Lucy Adams, current BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten and former chair Michael Lyons.

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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