Lord Patten, the former cabinet minister Chris Patten, has become the new chairman of the BBC Trust.
The BBC was the best broadcaster in the world, he told John Humphrys, and the Trust should act as its "conscience".
"There are some things the BBC has to defend, I hope not literally, to the death," he said, including its journalism and reach around the world.
But the BBC had created a "paradox" because of high executive salaries.
"People don't on the whole admire the BBC as an institution as much as they admire its programmes," he said, and were in some cases still paying executives too much.
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