Former director general George Entwistle was given £450,000 as a ‘cavalier’ payment. Margaret Hodge, the chair of the Commons public accounts committee [PAC] published a report that accused the cooperation of “rewarding failure”.
Other severance payouts included £949,000 for former deputy director general Mark Byford’s and £670,000 for chief operating officer Caroline Thomson.
Patten explained on air on BBC Radio 4 that the BBC were looking into whether they could pay out recoup any of the money given to Entwistle.
“We have already taken legal advice about whether we could actually take any money back,” he said.
“If we hadn’t done the settlement there and then we’d have had to do a more costly settlement with a constructive dismissal and probably an unfair dismissal on top of that. It would have taken time. To do that we would have to argue that on the basis of the Pollard report we would have been justified in summary dismissal. I rather doubt we will get the legal go ahead for that. But we do have to look at that and we have been looking at it.”
Patten also explained that the PAC report into their severance packages was not fair.
“I think the treatment by [PAC] is a bit shabby,” he said. “We sent them a detailed account why we have taken the decision we did on Entwistle. We needed to act quickly, not hang about. When you read the Pollard report it makes you realise how important it was to act quickly. I don’t think it is fair. We can’t retrospectively change people’s contractual arrangements”.
He also explained that the BBC’s reputation hadn’t “nosed-dived as much as some critics say,” despite the sex scandals and recent payouts.