BBC Tries To Restore Trust Amid Pay-Off Row

The acting director-general of the BBC will set out his plans today for restoring trust in the corporation in the wake of the botched Newsnight investigation into child abuse claims.

Tim Davie held his first meeting last night with the BBC Trust since being drafted in as a stand-in replacement for George Entwistle.

It came as a row erupted over the disclosure that Mr Entwistle - who served just 54 days in the post - was to receive a full year's salary of £450,000 in lieu of notice.

Mr Entwistle announced he was stepping down on Saturday after a Newsnight report wrongly implicated former Conservative Party treasurer Lord McAlpine in its investigation into child abuse allegations at the Bryn Estyn care home in North Wales.

Under the standard executive board contract he would normally be entitled to just six months salary.

A BBC Trust spokesman said: "The BBC reached a consensual termination agreement with George Entwistle last night and agreed to pay him 12 months pay in lieu of notice.

"This reflects the fact that he will continue to help on BBC business, most specifically the two ongoing inquiries."

But the move has been greeted with anger and disbelief by some MPs.

The chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, John Whittingdale, said he could not see any justification for such a large pay-off.

"A lot of people will be very surprised that somebody who was in the job for such a short period of time and then had to leave in these circumstances should be walking away with £450,000 of licence fee payers' money," he said.

"Certainly I would want to know from the Trust why they think that's appropriate.

"I want to hear an explanation but I have to say that I find it very difficult to see a justification for that amount of money to be paid to somebody who has had to resign in these circumstances.

"I wouldn't have thought that just because you have to help an inquiry into the Savile allegations you necessarily need to be paid such a large amount of money."

Harriet Harman MP, Labour's shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport, said: "It is not justifiable for the BBC to pay double the contractually required sum to the director-general on his resignation. It looks like a reward for failure.

"George Entwistle should decline to accept any more than is required under his contract. This is not the way to restore public confidence in the BBC."

The chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten, acknowledged that the corporation needed to "get a grip" and turn the situation around or his own position would be on the line.

He told Sky News that people would expect him to step down if he failed to restore the public's confidence in the corporation.

"If we don't restore the huge confidence and trust that people have in the BBC, then I'm sure people will tell me to take my cards and clear off," he said.

He also admitted that the future of Newsnight is being discussed.

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