There's no compensation fund, says BBC

The BBC has denied reports that a fund has been put aside to compensate presenters when they are banned from writing for newspapers next month.

Under new guidelines, which are being introduced in light of concerns raised by the Hutton Inquiry, presenters including Today host John Humphrys, political editor Andrew Marr and world affairs editor John Simpson, are expected to lose their lucrative columns if they want to continue working for the corporation.

The high-profile journalists are each reputed to earn up to £100,000 a year for their freelance work.

The Sunday Telegraph claimed at the weekend that the BBC was seeking to compensate presenters to the tune of £2m in an attempt to prevent them defecting to rival channels.

But a BBC spokesperson said the claims that it had set aside money were “completely untrue” and the company would be negotiating with journalists on an individual basis.

Although the rules have yet to be finalised, it is thought BBC journalists will still be allowed to write about subjects that are outside their specialism.

Other journalists expected to be affected include Fergal Keane, who contributes to The Independent, business editor Jeff Randall, who writes for The Sunday Telegraph, and arts correspondent Rosie Millard, who has a property column in The Sunday Times.

The Hutton Inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly raised concerns about freelance work by BBC journalists after Radio 4 Today reporter Andrew Gilligan, writing in The Mail on Sunday newspaper, accused Alastair Campbell of “sexing up” an intelligence dossier on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

In a meeting in Cardiff last week, the BBC board of governors also discussed potential reforms concerning the use of anonymous sources, producers’ guidelines on handling contentious stories, and complaints procedures.

BBC chairman Gavyn Davies said: “I believe that the public would expect the BBC to re-examine its procedures as a result of the experiences of this summer, and make any necessary changes to ensure that things are working properly going forward.”

By Sarah Boden

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