* Escalating spat over severance payments to senior execs
* Raises questions about management at BBC, will alarm NYT
* Ex-BBC head, current NY Times boss angry over "untruths"
* BBC Trust says accusation "bizarre"
By Belinda Goldsmith
LONDON, Sept 6 The BBC's former director general
Mark Thompson has accused the head of its governing body of
misleading Britain's parliament about huge pay-offs 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 under
fire over payments of 25 million pounds ($40 million) made to
150 departing BBC staff from 2009 to 2012.
The scale 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
The head of the BBC Trust, Chris Patten, told a
parliamentary hearing in July he was shocked by the size of some
of the pay-offs and unaware some were more than required under
But in a scathing written submission to a parliamentary
committee, released on Friday, Thompson accused Patten of
knowing about the payments and including "unspecific untruths"
and "inaccuracies" in his evidence.
Thompson, who is due to appear in front of the committee on
Monday, said he had emails to prove this.
Patten, a senior British conservative politician best known
for handing control of Hong Kong back to China in 1997, rebutted
the attack by telling reporters he "had no concerns at all"
about Thompson's submission that the Trust called "bizarre".
The stand-off between the two men has raised questions about
the ethics and management of the BBC under Thompson and Patten
and will cause alarm across the Atlantic at the New York Times.
"It has become daggers drawn and it is hard to see how their
positions are reconcilable," said media analyst and former ITV
executive Steve Hewlett.
"Ethics are central to the New York Times and if it
transpires that Thompson has misled people, he could be in
trouble. Similarly if the Trust was told more then they are
letting on then Patten will be a very difficult position."
The inquiry into payouts to senior BBC staff was triggered
after Thompson's successor, George Entwistle, left the BBC late
last year after just 54 days in the top job with a payoff of
He stepped down to take responsibility for a BBC news report
which falsely accused a former senior politician of child abuse
and allegations the corporation covered up decades of sex abuse
by one of its late stars, Jimmy Savile.
A National Audit Office report found a string of huge
payments were made to departing executives who were not always
entitled to the money.
It is the details over severance payments to former deputy
director general Mark Byford and to former marketing chief
Sharon Baylay that have come under particular scrutiny and
caused the major disagreements between Thompson and Patten.
Byford departed with a total payout of 949,000 pounds and
Baylay's settlement was worth 395,000 pounds.
The BBC Trust said it rejected Thompson's suggestion that
Lord Patten and BBC Trustee Anthony Fry misled parliament's
Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
"We completely disagree with Mark Thompson's analysis, much
of which is unsubstantiated," the Trust said in a statement.
The BBC's director of human resources Lucy Adams, who has
been fiercely criticised over the size of the payoffs, announced
last week that she would leave the corporation next year.