Days after the stunning resignation of former director general George Entwistle after only a few months on the job, the BBC finds itself taking criticism for his $715,000 payment upon departure.
Lord Patten, the BBC Trust chair, sent a letter defending the payment to John Whittingdale, the chairperson of the Commons culture, media and sports select committee. Patten defended the action, saying the trust would have been forced to pay him 12 months’ severance if they had fired Entwistle instead of accepting his resignation.
"In the absence of George’s honorable offer to resign, I would have had to speak to the Trustees about the option of termination by us (which fortunately, was not necessary)," Patten wrote. "In these circumstances, George would have been entitled to 12 months’ notice."
Whittingdale expressed that people "would 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 license fee-payers' money."
Entwistle was brought down by both the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse accusations, as well as the controversy from the Newsnight report that falsely accused a British politician of child abuse.
"In circumstances where we needed to conclude matters quickly and required George’s on-going co-operation in a number of very difficult and sensitive matters, including Inquiries into issues associated with Savile, I concluded that a consensual resignation on these terms was clearly the better route," wrote Patten.