BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten appears before the Commons
Culture, Media and Sport Committee as part of its
examination into the BBC's response to the Jimmy Savile
disclosure. REUTERS/UK Parliament
The head of the BBC's governing body defended paying a
"hell of a lot of money" to the corporation's ex-boss and said
the cost of two inquiries into the causes of his departure
would have to come from its publicly-funded coffers.
Director general George Entwistle came under fire for the
BBC's slow and unconvincing response to revelations a former
star presenter, the late Jimmy Savile, was a serial
paedophile, and for a programme featuring false sex abuse
Chris Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, said he had been
left with little choice but to agree to a £450,000 pound
pay-off for Entwistle who resigned as director general this
month after just 54 days in the post.
Patten told parliament's media committee he had agreed to
Entwistle receiving 12 months' pay after lawyers said
Entwistle could not be sacked and any other outcome could
leave the BBC facing an even bigger bill for unfair
"450,000 pounds is one hell of a lot of money. But the
options I had were absolutely clear," he said.
BBC's flagship Newsnight programme pulled an expose of Savile
shortly after his death in October last year and his offences
only came to light in a documentary by a rival broadcaster
two months ago.
Newsnight compounded its error by airing false sex abuse
allegations against a former senior politician. Entwistle
quit as questions grew about the competence of his
The BBC, which is funded by an annual licence fee levied on
viewers, has ordered two independent reviews, one into
Savile's abuse over six decades and another into why
Newsnight dropped its story.
Patten said these would be expensive because of the number of
"I am afraid we must bear the costs, however much they are,"
Patten said. Acting director general Tim Davie said
programmes would not suffer and the money would come from a
On Friday, former BBC director general Mark Thompson, and now
chief executive of the New York Times Co, was questioned by
the second review about what and when he knew about the
Thompson has told Reuters he did not know about the Newsnight
investigation and had had no involvement in the decision to
axe the report.
During a heated exchange with Conservative lawmaker Philip
Davies, a fierce BBC critic, Patten refused to comment on
what he thought of Thompson's position on the issue.
Davies told the committee that 10 days before Thompson left,
he had got BBC lawyers to write to a Sunday newspaper to tell
them to stop a story which alleged he did know about claims
relating to Savile.
"You know perfectly well that I'm not going to reply to
questions which are being looked at by Nick Pollard's
inquiry," Patten said. Pollard, the former head of Sky News,
is due to complete his report before Christmas.