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Agence France-Presse
London, November 12, 2012
British Prime Minister David Cameron believes the payoff agreed for former BBC director-general George Entwistle is "hard to justify" but said it was a matter for the broadcaster, his office said on Monday.

His comments follow a chorus of criticism over the reported £1.3-million ($2 million, 1.6-million-euro) payoff for Entwistle, who dramatically resigned on Saturday over a BBC report wrongly implicating a politician in child abuse.

"Clearly it's hard to justify a sizeable payoff of that sort but it's a matter for the BBC Trust and it's for them to justify it to the licence fee payers," a spokesman for Cameron told reporters.

The package includes a year's salary of £450,000 and a £877,000 pension plan, reports suggest -- despite Entwistle only holding the post for 54 days.

Asked if Entwistle should use his conscience to decide whether or not to take the full payoff, Cameron's spokesman replied: "It's a matter for George Entwistle."

The BBC is funded by a fee paid by everyone in Britain with a television.

"I think it is absolutely astonishing, it is unacceptable, it is unjustifiable and it is an affront to licence fee-payers," added Philip Davies, a lawmaker in Cameron's Conservative party and a member of parliament's media committee.

Under the terms of his contract, Entwistle was entitled to only six months' pay but the BBC Trust, the organisation's governing body, said the payoff reflected his continued involvement in various inquiries into the crisis.

Britain's newspapers criticised the package on Monday, with the Daily Mirror running the headline: "BBC boss is quits in".

The chairman of parliament's media committee, lawmaker John Whittingdale, said he expected an explaination from BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten, who is himself facing pressure to resign over the crisis.

"A lot of people will be very surprised that somebody who was in the job for such a short period of time and then had to leave in these circumstances should be walking away with £450,000 of licence fee-payers' money," he said.

He added: "On the face of it, it does seem to be pretty extraordinary but I will wait to hear from Lord Patten."

Maria Miller, the cabinet minister for culture, media and sport, also said the Trust would need to justify the payoff, adding: "I felt that the Trust was slow off the mark in responding to the crisis but that it is now acting decisively."

Entwistle quit after the BBC's flagship Newsnight programme was forced to apologise for wrongly implicating former Conservative party treasurer Alistair McAlpine in abuse at a Welsh children's home in the 1970s.

Entwistle had already been under pressure over the scandal over the late BBC star Jimmy Savile, who is accused of abusing hundreds of children over four decades, amid suggestions that the corporation covered up the allegations.