BBC Trust: Mark Thompson's pay-off statement is 'bizarre'
Thompson and Lord Patten 'fighting like ferrets in a sack' as light shone into the dark corners of the BBC
THE BBC Trust has dismissed claims from Mark Thompson that it misled MPs about excessive pay-offs for executives, describing his accusations as "bizarre".
Thompson, the former director-general of the BBC, has accused Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, which represents licence fee payers' interests, of presenting "false" evidence at a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing in July.
Lord Patten had told MPs he was "shocked" at how many senior staff at the BBC were given large pay-offs that broke the corporation’s own guidelines.
But Thompson claims Lord Patten was "fully briefed" about all aspects of a £390,000 pay-off to Sharon Baylay, the former director of marketing, and an almost £1m payment to Mark Byford, the former deputy director-general.
Thompson, now chief executive at the New York Times, has submitted a 13,000-word document to MPs ahead of his appearance on Monday at the PAC, where he faces allegations that he was not open with the Trust.
In his evidence, Thompson writes: "The present chair of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten, was himself fully briefed in writing as well as orally, about the two settlements shortly after his arrival in the early summer of 2011."
He added: "The insinuation that [Trust witnesses] were kept in the dark by me or anyone else is false."
The BBC Trust described the document as "bizarre" and rejected the suggestion that Lord Patten and Anthony Fry, another BBC trustee who gave evidence to MPs, misled the PAC.
The Daily Telegraph says the allegations are nevertheless sure to put Lord Patten under serious pressure and will reignite the debate over the scale of pay-offs at the corporation.
Rob Wilson, Tory MP for Reading East, says he is not surprised that Thompson and Lord Patten are "fighting like ferrets in a sack". He told The Telegraph: "As the light has been shone into the dark corners of the BBC, people with questions to answer have begun to mount campaigns to save their own skin." ·