U.K. Talk Show Star Graham Norton Criticizes Big BBC Severance Payments

BBC America
Graham Norton

"It defies belief," says the host of the U.K. public broadcaster's "Graham Norton Show" about payoffs to former top executives that exceeded contractual guarantees.

LONDON – BBC talk show host Graham Norton has criticized big severance payments to former top executives of the U.K. public broadcaster as an "own goal" (a soccer term that is used when a defensive player accidentally kicks the ball into his own team's goal).

"It did seem extraordinary in a time of cuts where you were asking everyone who works for the BBC who's loyal and doing a good job to tighten their belts and take a reduction in pay, while those people who'd dragged the BBC into disrepute were being handed sacks of cash," he said in an interview with Radio Times magazine. "It defies belief."

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BBC severance payments that exceeded contractual obligations were uncovered in a report by a financial watchdog earlier this year and have caused much debate, as the BBC is financed in large part by an annual license fee that all U.K. taxpayers with a TV set have to pay. Among the beneficiaries were former BBC boss George Entwistle, who left after less than 60 days in the job amid the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal.

Norton is known for The Graham Norton Show, his talk show that also airs on BBC America.

He earned $4 million in the most recent fiscal year. He was paid more than $3.88 million in talent fees and salary for such jobs as hosting The Graham Norton Show and a BBC radio show.

Last year, Norton sold his production firm So Television to ITV.

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