BBC Disclosure - April to June 2009

Thursday 12 November 2009, 08:32

Caroline Thomson Caroline Thomson Chief Operating Officer

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Earlier this year, Mark Thompson made a commitment to make the BBC a leader in transparency in the public sector. Today, in an important step towards this goal, the BBC has published a new set of pages that clearly set out senior managers' pay and expenses along with a full job description. In this video I discuss with Konnie Huq the thinking behind this progressive move.

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The BBC must always be accountable to the public which funds it and today's announcement is another step on the road to ever greater transparency and openness. We are meeting this challenge at a time when the public are demanding greater levels of accountability across the entire public sector and the BBC is determined not just to deliver the basic information but to do so in a way which marks a step-change in openness, simplicity and accountability. We are meeting the spirit as well as the letter of the law.

So today we are taking a significant step forward in opening up the BBC. In publishing the precise salaries and full business-related expenses for more than one hundred senior managers at the BBC we are going way beyond the disclosure of executive board level directors that many comparable organisations reveal. We are doing this because we believe it is the right thing to do, and there should be transparency around how we reward the most senior members of staff. These individuals have been identified according to their salary, their responsibilities and influence for spending public money and for overseeing the BBC's services and operations. The publication includes a number of the individuals whose salaries and expenses were published earlier in the year.

We are also going further in providing complete transparency over business-related expenses. Most organisations account for expenses in two ways - out-of-pocket business expenses, and centrally booked costs. Where the BBC is different is that we are publishing both, which are listed today in two categories - e-expenses and central bookings. Central bookings relate to services that have been booked using the BBC's centralised system such as taxis, flights and hotels. E-expenses are costs that are incurred by individuals such as hospitality and business meals or travel when they cannot access the central bookings system.

We are also building on our disclosure policy earlier in the year where we kept redactions to a minimum. In total just under 3,000 lines of information have been published today and the BBC has made redactions to only 1% of the records to protect confidentiality.

Of course there has been much debate in the media about the level of senior managers' pay at the BBC. The figures published today represent senior management salaries and expenses for April to June 2009. In the context of today's announcement it is important to remember that we recently announced that we will be reducing the total pay bill for senior managers by 25% over the next three years and will be reducing the number of senior managers by 18% over the same period. Alongside a new remuneration policy for senior managers we published a report that found we are paying between 25% and 65% less for our senior managers than comparable organisations.

Inevitably in a painful recession any spend is likely to attract comment. However, in reviewing today's material I am of the view that when you hold up both the salaries of our senior managers and their expenses to other comparable organisations in our industry we have a record which stands up to scrutiny. It is also important to recognise that many of the meetings where expenses are incurred result in deals being secured that generate millions of pounds in terms of co-production money and programme sales which the BBC can then reinvest in BBC content that I hope the public enjoy and value.

Our decision to disclose salaries and business-related expenses I believe demonstrates a new era of openness at the BBC.

With that in mind, we decided not simply to publish a 3,000-line spreadsheet, but instead to order and present the information in a way that is most useful. The public will be able to find the information that we have announced today on the About the BBC section of the BBC website. Here not only will people find the precise financial details of the executives listed, but it also sets out specific detail on each senior manager in terms of management and decision-making responsibility.

The next publication will be in the first quarter of 2010, when we will publish the expenses for July to September 2009. Alongside this we will publish a precise total amount that the BBC spends on talent alongside the Register of Interests and Gifts & Hospitality.

Ultimately we hope that today's announcement and the process that we started earlier this year will go some way to dispelling the myths that are sometimes propagated about the BBC and how it operates. We recognise that there is still some distance to go, but we are confident that the final destination will be a stronger, deeper relationship with our audience based on trust and their belief that the BBC continues to have an important role to play in their lives. Read more about the announcement.

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