The fact that the money is extorted from millions of ordinary Britons via a compulsory "licence" fee does not inhibit their spending at all
Mark Thompson, director-general of the BBC, insisted that all of the expenses claims made by staff were 'reasonable and justified'. Mr Thompson insisted that all of the expenses claims made by staff – including nights at five-star hotels, bottles of champagne and flights in private planes – were "reasonable and justified". He claimed BBC managers earn far less than they would in the private sector, and said it was right that the multi-million pound salaries of star presenters remained secret, otherwise there would be a "talent drain" to other channels.
Mr Thompson made his comments on the two of the state broadcaster's own shows – BBC1's Breakfast and Radio 4's Today programme – following the publication for the first time on Thursday of detailed breakdowns of his staff's expenses and salaries. The figures showed that the BBC's 50 highest-paid executives earned as much as £13.6million last year, with 27 paid more than the Prime Minister.
In addition, they spent tens of thousands of pounds' worth of public money on entertaining each other, staying at top hotels around the world and showering gifts on actors and other employees. One executive sent a £100 bouquet of flowers to Jonathan Ross, while another spent £1,137.55 on a dinner to mark Sir Terry Wogan's knighthood.
But Mr Thompson, whose basic salary is £647,000, said: "Every one of these expenses in my view was reasonable and was justified. "This is an organisation with a turnover over £4.5billion and this is a few hundred thousand pounds of expenses. "They've been pored over by the papers, The Daily Telegraph asked us 150 questions in the course of yesterday afternoon, and I don't believe that I've yet seen any evidence that a single one of these line-by-line expenses has been in any way unjustified."
He also defended the earnings of BBC executives, saying: "We all accept that we should get paid much less than our equivalents do in the private sector." Mr Thompson claimed the BBC had censored far less information than MPs had done when publishing their expenses in detail for the first time last week. But he said the salaries of its top performers must not be disclosed in order to stop them leaving for rival broadcasters. "We worry that, if it turns out you work for the BBC, you get your pay disclosed, if you work for ITV you don't, there will be a talent drain," Mr Thompson claimed.
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