The BBC has been widely condemned for using licence fee money to “buy the silence” of former staff via pay-off deals which include confidentiality clauses.
The Sunday Times reported yesterday that 20 former staff who had left claiming to be victims of bullying or harassment had signed such clauses.
According to the paper, they were barred from even revealing they had signed such a deal.
Former Countryfile presenter Miriam O’Reilly, who won an age discrimination case against the BBC in 2011, said: “I spent 25 years being told by the BBC that we uphold freedom of speech and now it takes that away to uphold its corporate reputation.”
According to the paper – the BBC “recently tried to gag” Liz Mackean as part of a proposed redundancy deal. She was one of the Newsnight journalists, alongside Meirion Jones, who put together a report revealing child-abuse allegations against Jimmy Savile which was scheduled for broadcast in December 2011 but was dropped by then Newsnight editor Peter Rippon.
Some 20 individuals are said to have spoken to The Sunday Times even though they could lose their pay-offs if the BBC found out.
O’Reilly told the Sunday Times that when she left the BBC for a second time in early 2012 she was asked to sign a legal gag which “meant I could never talk about the BBC in a negative way, including explaining what happened on my return. Incredibly, they told me that everyone signs this. I said, ‘No, I’m a journalist, I won’t accept it'.”
Former Newsnight journalist Olenka Frenkiel, who left the BBC in 2012, told the Sunday Times she was also asked to sign gag clauses after leaving the corporation.