Yentob: BBC Managers’ expense claims reasonable

Author: By Damon Wake, PA

The 62-year-old, who is the corporation’s creative director, told London’s
Evening Standard that expenses claimed by BBC top brass were reasonable, and
there was no need for a “collective mea culpa”.

Figures released in recent weeks showed high level managers at the corporation
claimed £400,000 on expenses over the last three years, spending public
money on champagne, cigars, flowers, luxury cosmetics, food hampers and even
a Doctor Who action figure.

Mr Yentob himself charged the licence fee payer nearly £1,600 for an
“executive Christmas dinner” and £160 for a lunch to discuss Nigella
Lawson’s contract – which he now says the TV chef did not even attend.

The lunch was held for three people, including agents, Mr Yentob said, to
discuss future series of Lawson’s show, and he said entertaining people in
this way was a means of bringing in more business for the corporation.

The BBC was criticised after it emerged that radio and TV station chiefs
showered famous stars with gifts and “thank you” lunches.

Mr Yentob, whose contract is worth up to £340,000 a year, insisted the
spending was a reasonable way of holding on to big names, describing the
presents as “small gifts to benefit the organisation”.

Last weekend the culture secretary Ben Bradshaw warned the BBC not to pander
to the “cult of youth” in the wake of 66-year-old Arlene Phillips’ removal
as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing.

Mr Bradshaw said it would “not be acceptable” if Ms Phillips was replaced
purely on grounds of her age, though he accepted that BBC bosses may have
had other reasons for their decision.

Mr Yentob told the Standard: “Do I think it’s the job of ministers to decide
who is cast in shows?

“Everybody around the building would like to be the person who decides who
goes on that show or that show. Maybe Ben Bradshaw and Harriet Harman are no
different.”

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