BBC defends executives' cocktail party in India

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The Independent Online

The BBC has defended the director-general Mark Thompson's decision to attend a cocktail party in India as he finalises plans to cut up to 2,800 jobs.

Mr Thompson and three executives have jetted off to Mumbai for a lavish bash to celebrate the BBC's success in India. The trip is costing a reported £12,000.

Next week, BBC employees will be given details of swingeing job cuts to be made as part of the Corporation's cost-cutting drive.

A BBC spokeswoman said: "This is a long-arranged trip for Mark Thompson to visit India and the BBC's activities there. The director-general visits different countries in the course of a year, and India is a very important and growing market for the BBC's international activities – the BBC World Service, BBC World and BBC Worldwide."

Meanwhile, BBC bosses splashed out a reported £5,000 on wine and canapes at a party for MPs on Wednesday. The event was held at the Atrium restaurant below the BBC's Millbank base in Westminster.

Mr Thompson was accused of insensitivity with remarks about the impending job cuts. He told the in-house magazine Ariel: "I think people will be pleasantly surprised in many parts of the BBC, if the BBC Trust approves the proposals, about the actual levels of job losses. This is not a story about cuts but about the creative future and delivering great new services and content to the British public. It's the right strategy and the right future for the BBC."

The controversy came as Sir Michael Lyons, the BBC chairman, said presenters should stop airing the Corporation's dirty linen in public. The Today programme's John Humphrys and the Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman are among those to have publicly criticised the BBC's proposed budget cuts. "The public debate they are best to stay out of," the chairman said. "To say it's untidy is perhaps an understatement."

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