Page last updated at 17:18 GMT, Thursday, 25 June 2009 18:18 UK

Top BBC bosses' expenses revealed

The BBC' s chief operating officer Caroline Thomson: "I feel comfortable with them all"

BBC director general Mark Thompson claimed more than £2,000 when he cut short his holiday to deal with the row over the Ross/Brand lewd calls in 2008.

The figure was one of a number of details to emerge after the expenses of some top BBC executives were published.

The corporation revealed the figures in response to Freedom of Information requests and pressure for more clarity.

The expenses and salaries of the BBC's 50 top-earning managers were also revealed on the website on Thursday.

Following public concern over star salaries, Thompson told an audience in Manchester that the total figure paid to talent will be revealed in September, but said it would not be broken down into individual salaries.


Additionally, the salaries and expenses of the BBC's top 100 executives and decision-makers will be published, quarterly, from September.

"Public expectations about openness, trustworthiness and every kind of value for money are becoming more trenchant, more insistent and more vocal than ever before," Mr Thompson said.

Vintage champagne

The expenses published on Thursday are those the executives paid for out of their own pocket before claiming back. They do not include any flights, hotels or other purchases booked directly through the BBC.

They include £2,236.90 claimed by Mr Thompson to fly him and his family back from a holiday in Sicily last October.

He returned to London to deal with the fall-out following calls made to actor Andrew Sachs by Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand on the latter's Radio 2 show.

Mr Thompson also chartered a private plane from Maine to Boston - at a cost of £1,277.71 - on 8 August 2004 to interrupt a family holiday to return to London to "deal with an urgent staff issue".

Other expenses detailed include:

• £99.99 claimed by Mr Thompson to pay for a bottle of vintage champagne given to Bruce Forsyth for his 80th birthday last year

• £1,137.55 claimed by former head of audio and music Jenny Abramsky for a dinner to celebrate Terry Wogan's knighthood in 2005

• £238 and £217 for iPods in 2005 and 2007 respectively claimed by former future media and technology director Ashley Highfield

• £500 claimed by BBC Vision director Jana Bennett after her handbag and contents were stolen on official BBC business. This cost was ultimately covered by insurers - not the BBC

• £231.55 claimed by Ms Bennett for a dinner with Jeremy Paxman to discuss the presenter's contract in July 2004

• £100 claimed by Ms Bennett for flowers for Jonathan Ross in May 2006

• £14.99 claimed by deputy director general Mark Byford for a book on the history of QPR football club in September 2007. Mr Byford has said the book was a gift for a colleague who was leaving the BBC and was "used as a key prop" in their farewell speech


The BBC said rules on leaving dinners and celebrations had now changed with spending limited to £20 per head. Buying champagne is also now banned.

A spokesman said senior figures needed to get together in formal settings to make important decisions.

Gifts and flowers had been bought for stars because it was "part of the BBC's job to nurture talent", the spokesman added.

Chief operating officer Caroline Thomson told BBC News there had been 38 Freedom of Information requests over expenses - "predominantly from newspapers and journalists".

Martin Bell: "None of these claims are reasonable"

The BBC already publishes the pay details of its executive board, as well as the pay and expenses of the corporation's governing body, the BBC Trust.

In a speech to the Chartered Institute of Public Finances and Accountancy's annual conference in Manchester, Mr Thompson said the trust and the BBC's executive board had "strongly encouraged us to look at whether we could and should go further in our practice of routine disclosure".

As a result, there would now be a breakdown of the pay and expenses of the "top 50 earners in BBC management" and 50 "top decision-makers", he said.

The 100 individuals, including "those with the greatest responsibility both for spending public money and for overseeing the BBC's services and operations", will be published, in addition to the existing publication of the salaries of executive directors.

Martin Rosenbaum
Media attention will doubtless now focus on the BBC's reluctance to make public the same kind of information about highly-paid presenters or 'talent'

Mr Thompson said there was "a legitimate interest in how much the BBC spends on talent, including top talent".

"In future, we will disclose the total amount we spend on talent as a whole, and we will work on a plan to make our spend on talent more transparent so the public can monitor the direction of travel over time," he said.

But it would be wrong to disclose individual star salaries "in an industry where confidentiality is the norm", he added.

"There's a real danger that talent would migrate to broadcasters where confidential information about how much they are paid will not be disclosed."

'Maintain trust'

Earlier this month, stars including Bruce Forsyth and Sir Terry Wogan were warned to expect their salaries to be cut when their contracts were renewed as part of the BBC's plan to save money.

Bruce Forsyth and Jonathan Ross
Stars such as Forsyth and Ross have been warned of pay cuts

A report in the Times on Thursday suggested the BBC was "refusing to reveal how much is spent on hospitality and gifts for its best-paid celebrities".

But in his speech Mr Thompson announced that a hospitality and gifts register would also be published.

BBC correspondent Torin Douglas said there was "a great appetite" for this material in the wake of the MPs' expenses scandal.

There's a real danger that talent would migrate to broadcasters where confidential information about how much they are paid will not be disclosed
Mark Thompson, on not disclosing the fees of BBC stars

Privacy rights will prevent some claims - such as money spent on lunches to recruit people who did not go on to join the BBC - from being published.

But Mr Thompson was keen that as much information as possible was published, our correspondent added.

In an email to staff, Mr Thompson said: "I don't underestimate the extent to which this may feel uncomfortable for individuals," Mr Thompson said in the email.

"However, I firmly believe that these changes will help us maintain trust with the licence fee payer and will ensure the BBC continues to lead the way in transparency and disclosure."

Executives' individual expenses:

Mark Thompson, director general

Mark Byford, deputy director general

Jana Bennett, director, BBC Vision

Tim Davie, director, audio & music

Erik Huggers, director, future media & technology

Zarin Patel, chief financial officer

John Smith, chief executive officer, BBC Worldwide

Caroline Thomson, chief operating officer

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