Media titans set for faceoff over BBC payments

  • Article by: GREGORY KATZ
  • Associated Press
  • September 6, 2013 - 7:55 AM

LONDON — A war of words between media titans over who approved oversized severance payments to outgoing BBC executives is set to move into the U.K. Parliament next week.

BBC Trust Chairman Chris Patten said Friday he is looking forward to Monday's appearance before Parliament's Public Accounts Committee, which is investigating BBC severance payments that exceeded contractual obligations.

Patten has been accused by former BBC Director Mark Thompson, now the chief executive of the New York Times Co., of misleading Parliament about his knowledge of the contested severance payments.

The issue focuses on whether Patten and the BBC Trust — the governing body of the BBC, charged with protecting the public's interest in the sprawling broadcaster — were told details about severance agreements reached during Thompson's tenure.

Patten told Parliament in July that the Trust was not informed about the payments, and expressed "shock and dismay" about some of the agreements negotiated under Thompson's watch. But Thompson said in a letter to Parliament on Thursday that the payments were made "with the full prior knowledge and extensive involvement of the BBC Trust."

In a statement released Friday, the BBC Trust said Thompson's letter is a "bizarre document" and it rejected the suggestion that its leaders were given a full briefing about the settlements. It also says the Trust was told that the payments were "within contractual terms."

Thompson is also expected to appear before Parliament on Monday.

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