Birt supporters counter-attack

SUPPORTERS of John Birt, Director-General of the BBC, have launched a counter-attack to strengthen his position before the crucial meeting of the corporation's governors this week that may decide his fate.

Senior executives who support his changes came to his aid yesterday as the pressure grew for him to resign because of the controversy over his tax arrangements.

All 10 fellow members of the board of management, which runs the BBC's day-to-day affairs, signed a letter published in the Times today calling for him to continue as Director-General.

And in another letter six well- known BBC journalists accused Mr Birt's critics of settling old scores. Martyn Lewis, the Nine O'Clock News presenter, Peter Sissons, the Six O'Clock News presenter, Peter Jay, the economic editor, Robin Oakley, the political editor, Polly Toynbee, the social affairs editor, and John Simpson, the foreign affairs editor, pledge their support for Mr Birt.

They say Mr Birt was guilty only of a hastily-corrected error of judgement which applied equally to the BBC governors who agreed his financial arrangements.

The letter says Mr Birt's critics are trying to destroy him in order to destroy his radical plans.

The letter from the senior management states: 'The controversy surrounding the employment arrangements of John Birt has obscured the major issue in British broadcasting - the future of the BBC beyond 1996 when its current Charter expires.'

It adds that broadcasting will change substantially in the next few years and the BBC must 'have a clear vision if it is to retain its role as the cornerstone of British broadcasting and continue to command respect and admiration in Britain and throughout the world.

'In January John Birt laid out that vision of a wide range of high- quality programmes, greater efficiency and accountability with value for money for licence payers. We, the ten members of the Board of Management, believe that John Birt is the best person to lead the BBC and he has our unanimous support.'

Two of the signatories had already publicly supported Mr Birt before the letter was distributed by the BBC press office yesterday. Will Wyatt, managing director of network television, backed him in a radio interview while David Hatch, an adviser to the Director- General, delivered his support in an article in the Sunday Express.

This concerted campaign to shore up Mr Birt's position came as pressure increased for him to resign over the revelation that his BBC salary had been paid into his private company.

The executives' public support was in sharp contrast to the silence of the BBC governors.

James Fenton, page 21

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions