UK Parliament Blasts BBC Over Severance Payouts: “Cronyism Was A Factor”

By | Monday December 16, 2013 @ 4:20am PST

bbcBritain’s Public Accounts Committee, a Parliamentary oversight group, has strongly criticized the BBC over severance packages paid to senior execs that in the three years to December 2012 totaled £25M ($40.8M). “There was a failure at the most senior levels of the BBC to challenge the actual payments and prevailing culture, in which cronyism was a factor that allowed for the liberal use of other people’s money,” the PAC said today. The BBC is funded by a compulsory £145.50 license fee paid by British households on an annual basis. The committee called some of the justifications provided by the BBC “extraordinary.” The group particularly noted comments made by former BBC director general, Mark Thompson, who is now president of The New York Times Company, when he appeared before it in September. Thompson “claimed that it thompsonwas necessary to pay his former deputy and long-term colleague Mark Byford an extra £300,000, not because the BBC was obliged to, but to keep Mr Byford ‘fully focused’ instead of ‘taking calls from head hunters’,” the PAC noted. In 2010, Byford was paid two years’ salary, half of it in lieu of notice, and was retained and paid for eight more months. The spokeswoman for the New York Times provided that paper with a statement from Thompson that reads in part: “Severance payments for senior managers working for public organizations are inevitably unpopular and controversial. The sole reason for making these payments was so that the BBC could rapidly reduce the number of senior managers and make far larger savings on behalf of the public… Despite some inflammatory language in the PAC report, there is absolutely no evidence of any wrongdoing by anyone at the BBC in relation to these severance payments.”

New BBC director general Tony Hall, who succeeded George Entwistle after he lasted only 54 days on the job and was forced out over a series of scandals that erupted in late 2012 (and was given a controversial £450,000 payout), has moved to cap severance pay at the broadcaster. The PAC says it welcomes the changes and agrees with Hall that the BBC had “lost the plot” in its management of severance payments in recent years. PAC chairwoman Margaret Hodge said the payments had put the BBC’s reputation at risk. The stinging rebuke comes at a time when the BBC has been making some headway in rebuilding its tarnished reputation after the late 2012 crises that included child sex abuse revelations surrounding Jimmy Savile, and editorial missteps at flagship news program, Newsnight. Read More »

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BBC Annual Report: Broadcaster “Seriously Let Down” License Fee Payers

By | Tuesday July 16, 2013 @ 6:52am PDT

BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten quoted Charles Dickens today in reflecting on the corporation’s last year: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” he said. Patten made the remark in presenting the BBC’s … Read More »

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Ex-BBC Host Stuart Hall Receives Jail Term For Indecent Assault On Young Girls

By | Monday June 17, 2013 @ 7:24am PDT

The BBC said today that it is “appalled” that some of Stuart Hall’s crimes took place in connection with his work at the broadcaster. Hall was charged late last year with indecent assault and last month admitted … Read More »

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BBC Inquiry Finds Sexual Harassment “Rare” At Broadcaster, But Bullying Is “Prominent”

By | Thursday May 2, 2013 @ 4:55am PDT

A review of internal practices at the BBC that was convened in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal has found that there have been 37 complaints of sexual harassment at the broadcaster in the past six years, but that current incidents are “rare.” Bullying and other forms of “inappropriate behavior” were found to be “much more prominent,” however. In response, the BBC said it would be overhauling its bullying and harassment policy and will also do away with gag clauses in BBC employment contracts.

The Savile crisis exploded last October, nearly a year after the longtime BBC celebrity TV host died. Since then there have been hundreds of allegations of child sex abuse lodged against Savile with some said to have occured on BBC premises. The report (read it here) calls the crisis “a period which shook the BBC to its core.” But according to the findings, it’s bullying that is the biggest current problem facing the broadcaster. Throughout conversations with nearly 1,000 staff members, the report found there was “a strong undercurrent of fear” Read More »

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BBC Staff To Strike Over Easter; Union Calls Broadcaster “Modern-Day Sweatshop”

By | Thursday March 21, 2013 @ 3:52am PDT

UPDATE, WRITETHRU, 4:33 AM: The National Union of Journalists and media and entertainment union Bectu have set a 12-hour walkout at the BBC starting at noon March 28. The action coincides with the start of an indefinite work-to-rule period in which employees do no more than the minimum required by their contracts. The move could affect Easter scheduling and will be the second walkout in recent weeks over compulsory layoffs and excessive workloads, which the unions believe are compromising quality journalism and programming. That’s especially notable given the high-profile snafus at flagship news magazine Newsnight late last year as the corporation was dealing with fallout from the Jimmy Savile sex scandal.

Bectu says management is attempting to create “a modern-day BBC sweatshop” while it forges ahead with a cost-cutting initiative which will zap 2,000 jobs across the group. The BBC has been tightening its belt since revenues were cut drastically through 2016 due to a freeze on the TV license fees that help support it. The upcoming action is also taking a stance on bullying and harassment. Employees have given evidence to the ongoing internal review that sprang from the Savile revelations. The union says Read More »

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BBC Releases 3,000 Documents From Inquiry Into Jimmy Savile/’Newsnight’ Scandal

By | Friday February 22, 2013 @ 5:24am PST

The BBC this morning published 3,000 pages of interviews and correspondence related to the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal and the 2011 shelving of a Newsnight program that would have revealed the late host’s alleged crimes. The documents include few earthshattering revelations, but are laced with internal criticisms and email chains that provide a window onto the workings of the venerable broadcaster whose armor has been severely dinged in the past several months as a result of the combined crises. (Read the full report here.)

The documents, provided by the Pollard Inquiry into the handling of the Newsnight affair, include testimony from key witnesses like Newsnight anchor Jeremy Paxman, whose evidence has been the focus of much scrutiny given its criticisms of management. He told interviewers that the Pollard Inquiry was being conducted in a “ridiculous fashion” and called the BBC’s behavior regarding the Newsnight report “contemptible.” He further said he’d been surprised by then-editor Peter Rippon’s response when Paxman wanted to pursue the Savile investigation after learning that rival ITV was about to air its own exposé. According to Paxman, Rippon said “I just can’t do this.” Paxman contends the use of the word ‘can’t’ was “very, very unusual… and I didn’t say, ‘What do you mean ‘can’t'? Someone has told you that you can’t, or you physically can’t face it?’” Paxman says he now believes it was a mixture of both. (The BBC said yesterday that Rippon would take over a newly-created post as editor of the BBC online archive). Paxman added that Savile’s behavior was “common gossip” around the corporation, although much of his testimony has been redacted. The BBC said today that 3% of the overall information has been blacked out “for a very limited number of legal reasons.” Read More »

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Global Showbiz Briefs: Pistorius-Steenkamp, ‘Reclaim’, Savile Fallout, David Haslingden

By | Thursday February 21, 2013 @ 8:31pm PST

BBC Three Orders Reeva Steenkamp Special
Fast-turnaround specialiast Mentorn Media is at it again. The producer has been commissioned by BBC Three for a quickie doc about the murder of Reeva Steenkamp. Steenkamp’s shooting death has been making headlines since she was killed on Valentine’s Day with star athlete Oscar Pistorius accused of murder. He has pleaded not guilty. Nick London is producing and directing for BBC Three. Rick Edwards, who presented Paralympics coverage for Channel 4, will host. Mentorn’s credits include Ricky Gervais’ An Idiot Abroad for Sky and HBO documentary For Neda. It also recently made fast-turnaround docs about Hurricane Sandy and the Aurora, Colorado massacre. Mentorn’s sister company Passion Distribution is handling sales.

Luketic, Former MGM Exec Sutherland Team On Oz Thriller
Los Angeles-based Australian director Alan White is set to direct Reclaim, a psychological thriller about an American couple who come to Australia to adopt a child after their unborn child dies in a car accident. Due to shoot in Oz later this year, the film is the first from a co-venture between U.S.-based Australian director Robert Luketic and Ian Sutherland’s Origin Productions, who will serve as producers with Brian and Josh Etting of L.A.–based Garlin Pictures. Sutherland, a former EVP of international theatrical distribution for MGM, and Luketic have been developing projects for several years. It will be the first Aussie film for White since 2000’s Risk. The screenplay is by Luke Davies (Candy) and Carmine Gaeta. Casting is underway. Arclight Films, which is selling worldwide rights, pitched the project to buyers at the Berlin festival’s European Film Market.- Don Groves
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Global Showbiz Briefs: Savile Claims Hit BBC, Sony TV In Russia, TLC’s ‘Bizarre ER’, Fremantle’s ‘Family Harmony’ And More

BBC Hit With Civil Claims In Jimmy Savile Scandal
A lawyer acting on behalf of 31 victims of the late Jimmy Savile has lodged civil claims for compensation in the high court against the disgraced host’s estate and the BBC over allegations of sexual abuse. Attorney Alan Collins told The Guardian that all claims are against Savile’s estate with “seven or eight” against the BBC itself, which the suits allege has “vicarious liability” in the case. Another lawyer working on behalf of a further 62 victims told Bloomberg  that the action was premature, because parties involved had agreed to wait for the results of the police investigation into Savile. “We do not believe the commencement of litigation at this stage to be either necessary or in our clients’ best interest,” she said. – Joe Utichi
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BBC Sorry Over Repeat Of Kids Program Featuring Jimmy Savile Parody

By | Monday January 21, 2013 @ 3:02am PST

Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage

In the past few months, the crisis-plagued BBC has repeatedly apologized for its mishandling of the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal and this weekend was forced to offer up yet … Read More »

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Late BBC Host Jimmy Savile’s Abused Children On Pubcaster’s Premises, Report Finds

By | Friday January 11, 2013 @ 3:41am PST

Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage

UPDATE, 4:49 AM: The BBC has responded to the findings of this mornig’s report that exposes the extent of sexual abuse by former BBC host Jimmy Savile. In a statement, the broadcaster said: “As we have made clear, the BBC is appalled that some of the offences were committed on its premises. We would like to restate our sincere apology to the victims of these crimes. The BBC will continue to work with the police to help them investigate these matters. We have also set up the Dame Janet Smith Review to help us understand how these crimes could have been committed and how we can avoid them happening ever again.”

PREVIOUS: While the scandal-plagued BBC has ceased making headlines on a daily basis, a report on sexual abuse allegations against late BBC personality Jimmy Savile could turn attention back to the corporation’s past. The ‘Giving Victims a Voice’ report reveals that the former Top Of The Pops host committed 214 criminal offenses against children and young people – some as young as 8 – over four decades. Released by the Metropolitan Police and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the report says Savile used the celebrity he earned through high-profile BBC hosting gigs like Top Of The Pops and Jim’ll Fix It to gain access to children and dupe institutions, including the BBC itself, Read More »

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UK Parliament Slams BBC Over “Cavalier Use Of Public Money”

By | Thursday December 20, 2012 @ 4:53am PST

A day after it faced harsh criticism in a review of its response to the Jimmy Savile/Newsnight crisis, the BBC has taken a lambasting from British lawmakers over a severance payment to former director … Read More »

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UPDATE: Inquiry Finds Sex Abuse/Editorial Scandal Is “One Of The Worst Management Crises” In BBC History

By | Wednesday December 19, 2012 @ 4:50am PST

UPDATE, 4:50 AM : A review into the cancellation of a BBC Newsnight program that would have revealed allegations of rampant sexual abuse by late BBC personality Jimmy Savile has been released. In the report, overseen by former Sky News chief Nick Pollard, are strong criticisms of the BBC Trust along with senior BBC executives past and present. The review (read it here) found that the BBC response to the scandal that blew open in October when rival ITV aired a program outlining allegations against Savile, was “chaos and confusion.” Pollard said, “The efforts to get to the truth behind the Savile story proved beyond the combined efforts of the senior management, legal department, corporate communications team and anyone else for well over a month.” Former BBC director general George Entwistle and BBC1 controller Danny Cohen didn’t look hard enough at the issues at the time the Newsnight report was shelved in late 2011 and tributes to Savile aired on BBC1, the review found. This was especially in light of emails that had been sent to Entwistle and Cohen, but apparently not read, that mentioned a “darker side” of Savile. Newsnight editor Peter Rippon is to be replaced but head of news Helen Boaden’s October offer to resign was not accepted and she will return to work tomorrow. Her deputy, Stephen Mitchell, resigned just after the Pollard report Read More »

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Global Showbiz Briefs: Sony LondonTV Deal, Rebekah Brooks Severance, Jimmy Savile Crimes, Berlin Film Mart

By | Wednesday December 12, 2012 @ 8:30pm PST

Sony Backs UK Consortium Bidding For LondonTV License
A group known as the Channel 6 Consortium has announced that Sony Pictures Television Networks in the UK has agreed to support LondonTV, the Consortium’s proposed local channel. There are currently 6 groups bidding for the license that regulator Ofcom will grant by February 2013. Under the agreement, SPT Networks will be a program schedule provider and deliver creative services for LondonTV in the event of a successful bid. SPT Networks’ UK advertising partner would also handle all advertising sales for LondonTV. The consortium is backed by London newspaper groups Archant, Tindle and Trinity Mirror. LondonTV’s mission is to produce thousands of hours of high quality local news and current affairs programming on an annual basis. Sony’s involvement would add series and films. Chief exec of the Channel 6 Consortium, Richard Horwood, said Sony’s “expertise in the multichannel sector will significantly strengthen LondonTV from the outset.” SPT Networks already operates Sony Entertainment Television and Sony Movie Channel in the UK. Read More »

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BBC Scandal: NYT CEO Delays Facing Staff Till “Early In The New Year”

By | Friday November 30, 2012 @ 6:45pm PST

Mark ThompsonNew York Times Co. CEO Mark Thompson, who was interviewed a week ago in London in connection with the BBC scandal involving sex abuse claims against former TV host Jimmy Savile, notified the paper’s staff in a memo … Read More »

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BBC Directors Face Parliament Over Ongoing Crisis: “We Shot Ourselves In The Foot”

By | Tuesday November 27, 2012 @ 6:36am PST

In a three-hour session this morning, BBC Trust chairman Lord Chris Patten and acting BBC director general Tim Davie answered questions about ongoing troubles at the broadcaster. This was the same panel that grilled George Entwistle in October, two weeks before he was forced to resign as director general. Patten’s and Davie’s turns were somewhat less fraught, although Patten was often taken to task by one BBC-averse MP. Both Patten and Davie owned up to a “bad journalistic error” that led to the running of a recent Newsnight report that falsely implied former Margaret Thatcher adviser Lord McAlpine was a pedophile. However, Davie said he thought cancelling the 60 Minutes-like flagship program would be an “overreaction.” Disciplinary hearings are currently underway with the dozen or so people involved in the report. Read More »

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Lawyers’ Letter Raises Questions About When Mark Thompson Learned Of Alleged Jimmy Savile Abuse At The BBC: NYT

By | Friday November 16, 2012 @ 3:07am PST

Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage

Just four days into his new job as CEO of The New York Times Company, Mark Thompson is again the subject of an article in its flagship newspaper. A story published today by The New York Times says a new piece of information “raises questions” about assertions Thompson has made with regard to when he learned of allegations of sexual abuse against late BBC host Jimmy Savile. Thompson told the NYT in October, “During my time as director general of the BBC, I never heard any allegations or received any complaints about Jimmy Savile.” He has also maintained that he knew nothing of a cancelled investigation by the BBC‘s flagship current affairs program Newsnight into the claims against Savile. But the NYT reports today that a letter sent by lawyers eight days before Thompson left the BBC in September reveals he was involved in “aggressive” legal action pertaining to the Savile story. The letter, sent on behalf of Thompson and news chief Helen Boaden, threatened Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Times newspaper with “defamation proceedings” if it were to publish an article alleging the pair had orchestrated a cover-up over the scuppered Newsnight broadcast.

Related:
NYT Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. Welcomes Mark Thompson As CEO
Latest Fiasco At BBC Turns Up The Heat On Incoming NYT CEO

The NYT, which has closely scrutinized Thompson’s role in the saga, says the letter has been revealed to include a summary of the abuse alleged against Savile, and the fact that some of the abuse was alleged to have taken place on BBC premises. A Thompson aide told the NYT that Thompson orally authorized the sending of the letter but did not know the details of its contents. “It’s not clear if he was shown it,” the aide said, “but he doesn’t remember reading it.”

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Jon Stewart Takes Aim At BBC: Video

By | Thursday November 15, 2012 @ 2:10pm PST

The Daily Show host tore into the UK pubcaster last night, skewering the BBC’s handling of the unfolding sex-abuse scandal. He also takes aim at U.S. broadcasters, some of whom have described late TV host and alleged child molester Jimmy Savile as Britain’s Dick Clark.

Related:
UK Media Crisis: ITV Read More »

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UK Media Crisis: ITV Under Fire Over David Cameron Interview On Top Morning Show

By | Thursday November 15, 2012 @ 10:31am PST

Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage

The ongoing crisis in the British media has drawn in a new player. As the BBC continues to sift through the scandals in its news division, rival broadcaster ITV is facing scrutiny from regulator Ofcom over one of its own news programs. ITV’s Today-style This Morning show will have to answer whether a recent interview with Prime Minister David Cameron breached the broadcasting code by failing to provide a “right of reply” to former Margaret Thatcher adviser Lord McAlpine when he was incorrectly linked to child sex abuse allegations, The Guardian reports. Host Phillip Schofield was forced to apologize after he confronted Cameron with a list of alleged perpetrators he had gleaned in “about three minutes” on the Internet, and the list was briefly made visible to the cameras. Read More »

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BBC Trust Chairman: “You’ve Only Got To Watch Television In America Or France Or Italy To Know How Good The BBC Is”

By | Sunday November 11, 2012 @ 8:00am PST

Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage

As the BBC scrambles to right the ship in the wake of another disaster at its Newsnight program – and last night’s resignation of director general George Entwistle – BBC Trust chairman Lord Chris Patten made the rounds of the British media on Sunday. Defending the man he appointed, Patten told Sky News that Entwistle left “because there was a bad piece of journalism for which he took responsibility. It was an honorable and decent thing to do. What we need to do now is get a grip of what is happening at the BBC.” Patten told the BBC’s Andrew Marr this morning that the BBC itself was in need of a “thorough, radical, structural overhaul.” But, he also noted, “You’ve only got to watch television in America or France or Italy to know how good the BBC is… The basis for the BBC’s position in this country, is the trust that people have in it.” He added, “If the BBC loses that, it’s over. There are one or two newspapers, Mr. [Rupert] Murdoch’s papers, who would love that, but I think the great British public doesn’t want to see that happen.” The BBC is funded by the British people who pay a fixed license fee for owning a television set, and it has been an enormously trusted and integral part of British life for some 85 years.

Related: UPDATE: Latest Fiasco At BBC Turns Up The Heat On Incoming New York Times CEO
Related: BBC’s George Entwistle Grilled By Parliament Over Jimmy Savile Sex Scandal

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