BBC publishes details of executive expenses

Five years' worth of claims are made public

LONDON -- Reorganized flights for BBC director general Mark Thompson, a bottle of vintage champagne for veteran entertainer Bruce Forsyth and a big meal during MIPTV and are among the headlines from the publication of top executive expense claims over the past five years made public by the BBC on Thursday.

The BBC laid bare the expenses of some of its top executives, alongside the expenses and salaries of its 50 top-earning managers, on its Web site after Thompson called for more transparency on such expenditure. His call came following Freedom of Information requests from various sources.

The detail includes two Thompson family holidays cut short at a cost of more than £3,514 ($5,720) including when the Beeb's top executive flew back to deal with the uproar over lewd calls made to actor Andrew Sachs on Russell Brand's Radio 2 show.

Thompson also chartered a private plane from Maine to Boston for £1,277 ($2,080) in 2004 to interrupt a family holiday to return to London "to deal with an urgent staff issue," the published claim says.

Thompson said salaries and expenses of the BBC's top 100 executives and decision-makers will be published quarterly from September this year.

The expenses also include details of a meal during MIPTV paid for by the corporation's former future media chief Ashley Highfield.

Highfield spent £1,512 ($2,460) on a staff dinner in Cannes in April 2008 just days before he exited the corporation to become Project Kangaroo CEO.

And for the tabloids here there was a £99.99 ($163) claim by Thompson to pay for a bottle of vintage champagne given to Bruce Forsyth for his 80th birthday.

In a speech to the Chartered Institute of Public Finances and Accountancy's annual conference in Manchester, 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".

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

The publication of BBC expenses comes amid a moment in U.K. media history dominated by revelations surrounding MP expense claims after the Daily Telegraph secured extensive information on politician's expenses claims here.
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