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LONDON — The BBC’s new director general Tony Hall told Radio 4’s agenda-setting news program Today that one of his first jobs at the broadcaster is to review the scale of payoffs given to former senior BBC executives.
Hall told Today host John Humphrys that “the size of payoffs has not been right,” joining the chorus of disapproval that erupted after the $715,000 pay-off for George Entwistle — who resigned as director general of the BBC after just 54 days in the job — was made public. Hall also noted the million dollar-plus golden goodbye dished out to the BBC’s former deputy director general Mark Byford.
Entwistle dramatically exited the public broadcaster after weeks of negative headlines for the BBC amid the sexual abuse scandal surrounding late former BBC host Jimmy Savile and the revelation that the broadcaster’s Newsnight show had dropped a planned report about the allegations against him late last year.
Hall told the BBC news show Wednesday morning: “I will not have a payoff if I am found wanting in all sorts of ways – I can tell you that.”
Today‘s host, Humphrys, a veteran journalist and BBC presenter, is credited with playing a key role in the resignation of Entwistle. Humphrys interviewed his then boss about the handling of the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal on Nov. 11, and Entwistle resigned from his post the same evening.
New BBC boss Hall told Humphrys explicitly that he is reviewing the scale of the prior payoffs for Entwistle and others.
“This is a serious issue here. I am looking at payoffs, I will have something to say about payoffs in the next couple of weeks and the scale of those payoffs,” Hall said.
Hall himself earns $683,000 (£450,000) in his BBC role.
He noted the total salary cost for senior BBC management had recently fallen by around a third and hinted that it would not be increasing again under his watch.
“We have got to look at the way we spend all our money, on managers, on programs — everything — as if we were spending our own personal income,” Hall said. “At a time when every single family is feeling hard up, is feeling the pinch, we have got to be able to justify what we spend to people who are paying for us — if it’s about payoffs or salaries.”
He added: “I shall be looking for ways of simplifying the organization and responding to things I hear from both outsiders and insiders.”
Humphrys referenced Entwistle and his ill-fated reign when he suggested to Hall at the end of the interview: “We will talk to you again in 54 days’ time if you are still here.”
“Make it 56,” replied Hall.
Hall also noted that the BBC had learned the lessons of the Pollard report — the BBC’s inquiry into the Savile crisis — and was implementing its recommendations.
Hall said: “I wouldn’t be here if the Savile crisis had been handled differently. The person at the top of the organization took the rap for it and I am here now.”
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