Select committee questions Tony Hall on annual report

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Tony Hall says HR director Lucy Adams's successor will earn a 'lower rate' after being questioned about her £320,000 salary.

Appearing before a parliamentary select committee, he was asked how it was possible that Adams was paid exactly the same as director of television Danny Cohen.

The leader of the BBC, who has been in the job since April, defended himself by saying: 'I've inherited what I've inherited.'

It was one of many questions that focused on senior management salaries, bullying, payoffs and the fallout from the Savile crisis.

The session with the Department of Media, Culture and Sport select committee was convened to discuss the BBC's annual report and included evidence from Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust.

The chairman expressed surprise at how much media coverage the BBC attracts, adding that this was the 16th time in a year that the BBC had appeared before a Parliamentary committee.

Patten also said the BBC was still 'dealing with the consequence of things that went wrong in the past'.

'Wretched business'

Among them was the failed DMI programme, which cost the corporation £100m and left little to show for it. Patten confirmed to MPs that it was a 'pretty lamentable story' and a 'wretched business'.

Asked how it was allowed to lose so much money, the chairman explained that PricewaterhouseCoopers will be reporting back on the failed technology programme. All details of the report will be made public.

But Patten was clear that it was not the Trust's remit to manage large individual projects undertaken by the BBC, but only to get updated on them.

'Ultimately, responsibility lies with the Executive,' he judged.

The director general added that he pulled the plug on the project as soon as it became clear that 'it was going nowhere'.

Bullying helpline

On the subject of bullying and harassment, the director general said he was pleased to announce a new helpline for staff. He also confirmed that a number of disciplinary hearings had been carried out and that one person, who was the subject of a complaint, had now left the BBC.

Hall said the BBC was working 'very hard' to implement the conclusions of the Respect at Work Review, led by Dinah Rose QC. He said it was important not to allow things to 'fester'.

The DG spoke once again about senior managers being 'enablers', a theme he has touched upon previously. He said that managers shouldn't be people who stop others from doing things.

'I do want a simpler, slimmer BBC with the appropriate number of managers,' he declared to the committee. He reiterated that he wanted to simplify how the BBC works and cut management layers, with more 'difficult decisions' to come.

Hall announced it was his goal to reduce the number of senior managers from 450 to 415 by 2015.

But he praised good leadership and singled out Newsnight under new editor Ian Katz, who came from the Guardian. He believed there was now more collaboration between the current affairs programme and Today, with Katz bringing 'new drive' to the programme affected by past scandals.

Panorama investigation

Hall said he believed 'strongly in the BBC's ability to carry out investigative journalism' after he was asked about a Panorama investigation into several charities including Comic Relief. Hall confirmed that a programme into the charities would go ahead if allegations were proven to be true.

Press reports have claimed that Comic Relief had invested £150m of funds for up to eight years before giving money to good causes. It's alleged that it has invested money in tobacco firms and an arms company.

When pressed about a transmission date, Hall could only say that he hoped the programme would be transmitted 'but I don't know yet what the substance of the allegations are, and whether they are right or wrong'.

Hall also made clear that he had talked to director of news James Harding about the Panorama investigation - which has been ongoing for six months - but that there wasn't a 'string of BBC executives' making decisions about the programme.

When questions lingered for quite some time on specifics related to the Savile crisis and who knew what and when, Hall said he was more interested in looking forward instead of back: 'I want us to learn, I want us to change, I want us to move on.'

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