Union blasts BBC on executive bonus pay

By WalŽ Azeez

The NUJ has criticised the BBC after the corporation’s 2002/2003 annual report revealed bonus payments to its executive committee averaged 22 per cent, at a time when pay rises for journalists have been set at 3.6 per cent.

Paul McLaughlin, NUJ broadcast organiser, said journalists were dismayed at this contrast and the assertion by BBC head of employee relations Gillian Alford last week that after offering staff a 3.6 per cent rise, “there’s very little available for additional performance related increases”.

“It seems there is one BBC and two pay structures. It is not fair for the executive committee to line its pockets at a time when an excuse is being given to staff that there is not enough for bonuses in the pot,” McLaughlin said. “It’s a scandal to say with one breath ‘you’ve no money for staff bonuses’ and then dish out 22 per cent on average to the executive committee.”

However, the BBC stressed that executives’ bonuses had fallen in 2002/2003 to 22.1 per cent from 24.9 per cent in the previous year, to reflect difficult conditions within the broadcasting industry.

A BBC spokeswoman said there was a “pot of money” still available to managers to pay out discretionary performance-related bonuses.

lThe mole-hunt over Today’s “sexed-up dossier” report by defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan continued in earnest this week after he was recalled to give evidence before the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Gilligan was due to face the committee on Thursday, a day after David Kelly, the Ministry of Defence official who met the BBC journalist before his report was aired on 29 May.

The MoD had alluded to Kelly being the possible single source for that report.

However, Kelly denied this in front of the committee, leading it to suggest he was a “fall guy” for the MoD and paving the way for the Government to exert further pressure on the BBC to identify Gilligan’s source.

On the same day, Gilligan was also the subject of deliberations at the Commons Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport when chairman Gerald Kaufman raised the issue of his freelance article for The Mail on Sunday and called for a ban on BBC journalists writing for newspapers.

“He [Gilligan] should have been told long ago to either stop writing these articles or to stop working for the BBC. I would think that it should be out of the question for staff journalists on the BBC to be moonlighting by writing contentious and controversial articles for the press,” Kaufman said. He added that John Humphrys, John Simpson and Andrew Marr should also be asked to make a choice between writing and working for the BBC.

BBC director of news Richard Sambrook said: “The issue has arisen where some of our staff, who have a certain value to newspapers, are encouraged to write. I need to undertake a review and report back to the board of governors.”

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