BBC told to reduce Labour MP Diane Abbott's show fees


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The Independent Online

The BBC has been told to stop paying Labour MP Diane Abbott so much for appearing on political show This Week after she took home more than £6,000 in appearance fees.

A report by the BBC Trust's Editorial Standards Committee upheld a complaint by a member of the public and found her appearances on the show, hosted by Andrew Neil, had been "too frequent" since her promotion to the Labour front bench.

Ms Abbott, who was a regular on the show alongside sparring partner Michael Portillo, was named shadow minister for public health in October 2010.

She continued to appear on the show, billed as a former presenter, appearing eight times up to July this year and declared earnings from the show of £6,712 in that period.

The investigation concluded she should have been paid what the BBC described as a "realistic" fee for her appearances on the show broadcast on BBC1 at 11.35pm on Thursday nights.

BBC guidelines state it "should not normally pay MPs ... for appearances or other contributions to any BBC output in which they are speaking as a member of their party or expressing political views", but it does pay what it calls "limited and realistic disturbance" fees to make up for the inconvenience involved in filming.

The BBC initially defended its stance, saying she had "a co-presenter role", but later said her appointment to the shadow ministerial role meant "she had less licence to depart from the party line".

The report said the BBC Executive admitted "she had appeared too often and it was only appropriate for her to appear 'once or twice a year on a special occasion' and that in future she would be paid a disturbance, rather than an appearance, fee."