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BBC's Thompson says bosses' expenses justified

The BBC's Director-General Mark Thompson has defended the 350,000 pounds claimed in expenses by the corporation's bosses over the past five years as "justified" and said the broadcaster was striving for openness.

business Updated: Jun 26, 2009 19:07 IST

The BBC's Director-General Mark Thompson has defended the 350,000 pounds claimed in expenses by the corporation's bosses over the past five years as "justified" and said the broadcaster was striving for openness.

Thompson was speaking after a freedom of information request led to the public broadcaster revealing the salaries and expenses of its 50 top-earning managers.

"I don't believe that I've yet seen any evidence that a single one of these line-by-line expenses has been in any way unjustified," he told BBC Radio on Friday.

"This is five years (expenses) of the senior management of the BBC, this is an organisation with a turnover of 4.5 billion pounds, this is few hundred thousand pounds of expenses," he said.

On Thursday, the BBC published thousands of claims, that included executive receipts for public money spent on luxury hotels, dinners, parties, vintage champagne and a private jet.

Claims made by Thompson to fly his family back from holiday so he could deal with the "Sachsgate" scandal and a bottle of Krug Grande Cuvee champagne as a gift for Bruce Forsyth's 80th birthday were also included.

He said the executive board's audit committee had agreed to pay the 2,237-pound expense of cutting the holiday short last year after the row escalated over prank calls made by Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand.

As well as numerous parking charges, some for as little as a few pence, Thompson also reclaimed the annual 1,700-pound cost of London's congestion charge.

He said he had acted within the rules at all times.

The BBC, he added, had taken the decision to publish salaries and expenses in the interests of transparency.

"The important thing is we put these out there. We absolutely believe in freedom of information," he said.

"In the future we are going to reveal much more: we believe that we will be one of the most, if not the most, open organisations in the whole of the public sector."

Thompson said on Thursday that in future the BBC would publish the salaries of its managers every year, as well as those of the BBC's 100 top decision-makers, whose expenses would also be disclosed every three months.

But the earnings of on-air talent and artists -- which have been the subject of intense criticism -- would remain confidential, with only the total sum spent on talent published.