Yentob: BBC Managers' expense claims reasonable

Damon Wake,Pa
Wednesday 05 August 2009 12:30 BST

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BBC executive Alan Yentob hit out at the corporation's critics today and attacked ministers for trying to interfere in its affairs.

The 62-year-old, who is the corporation's creative director, told London's Evening Standard that expenses claimed by BBC top brass were reasonable, and there was no need for a "collective mea culpa".

Figures released in recent weeks showed high level managers at the corporation claimed £400,000 on expenses over the last three years, spending public money on champagne, cigars, flowers, luxury cosmetics, food hampers and even a Doctor Who action figure.

Mr Yentob himself charged the licence fee payer nearly £1,600 for an "executive Christmas dinner" and £160 for a lunch to discuss Nigella Lawson's contract - which he now says the TV chef did not even attend.

The lunch was held for three people, including agents, Mr Yentob said, to discuss future series of Lawson's show, and he said entertaining people in this way was a means of bringing in more business for the corporation.

The BBC was criticised after it emerged that radio and TV station chiefs showered famous stars with gifts and "thank you" lunches.

Mr Yentob, whose contract is worth up to £340,000 a year, insisted the spending was a reasonable way of holding on to big names, describing the presents as "small gifts to benefit the organisation".

Last weekend the culture secretary Ben Bradshaw warned the BBC not to pander to the "cult of youth" in the wake of 66-year-old Arlene Phillips' removal as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing.

Mr Bradshaw said it would "not be acceptable" if Ms Phillips was replaced purely on grounds of her age, though he accepted that BBC bosses may have had other reasons for their decision.

Mr Yentob told the Standard: "Do I think it's the job of ministers to decide who is cast in shows?

"Everybody around the building would like to be the person who decides who goes on that show or that show. Maybe Ben Bradshaw and Harriet Harman are no different."

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