MPs attack BBC over radio stars' salaries

BBC accused of giving misleading information

LONDON -- An influential panel of members of parliament has slammed the BBC for overpaying its top radio talent, saying the pubcaster was paying "more than twice what commercial radio stations are paying their presenters" and said the BBC should be forced to disclose exactly how it spends license fee payers' money.

The public accounts select committee, which reviews spending by government-funded organizations, has accused the BBC of giving the wrong figures to Parliament and said it was "highly unsatisfactory" that the pubcaster had not released the actual figures its presenters were paid.

"All of this places a big question mark over whether the BBC is achieving value for money for the license payer," the report said.

The pubcaster refused to give a breakdown of salaries to the investigating body, the National Audit Office, unless the NAO signed a non-disclosure agreement keeping commercial details of payments secret.

But the committee is said the NAO should have "unrestricted" access to the BBC's books in line with other organizations it oversees.

"It is disgraceful that the NAO's lack of statutory audit access to the BBC puts the corporation in the position to dictate what the spending watchdog can and cannot see."

The pubcaster runs 10 national radio stations and six regional stations in the U.K., costing the license fee payer £462 million ($749 million) in 2008.

BBC Trust member Jeremy Peat told Radio 4's flagship news show "Today" that the BBC was prevented from releasing details of the salaries it paid because of commercial confidence and data protection legislation.