NY Times head accuses BBC chief of misleading parliament

LONDON,  (Reuters) – The BBC’s former director general Mark Thompson has accused the head of its governing body of misleading Britain’s parliament about large payments to senior executives, in an escalating spat that has put the two men’s reputations on the line.

Thompson, who quit the British broadcaster last year to become chief executive of the New York Times, is facing scrutiny over payments of 25 million pounds ($40 million) made to 150 departing BBC staff from 2009 to 2012.

The scale of some of the severance payments, many of them made as austerity cuts swept Britain, angered politicians and members of the public, who fund the broadcaster through a compulsory licence fee.

The head of the BBC Trust, Chris Patten, told a parliamentary committee hearing in July he was shocked by the size of some of the payments and unaware a number were more than required under contractual terms.

But in a written submission to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), released yesterday, Thompson said: “The picture painted for the PAC by the BBC Trust witnesses … was – in addition to specific untruths and inaccuracies – fundamentally misleading about the extent of Trust knowledge and involvement.”

Thompson said in a statement emailed to Reuters by a New York Times spokeswoman yesterday that he had backed up his submission with evidence and would not comment further until he appeared on Monday before the committee, a body which oversees government expenditure.

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