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Setting an example

BBC topper gives up $229,500 bonus

LONDON — As the BBC presses ahead with 4,000 job cuts, director-general Mark Thompson has attempted to take the sting out of a spat over executive bonuses by forgoing his £135,000 ($229,500) windfall.

At a press conference to launch the BBC’s annual report and accounts for 2004-05, Thompson said it was inappropriate for him to receive a bonus at such a sensitive time. “While I may well put myself forward for a bonus in future years, this year it just wouldn’t have felt right.”The accounts reveal that $928,000 was paid in bonuses to toppers.

The most, some $161,000, went to deputy director general Mark Byford.

John Smith, the BBC’s chief operating officer who doubles up as CEO of BBC Worldwide, pocketed $126,000, while policy head Caroline Thomson got $112,000.

Director of TV Jana Bennett’s bonus was $110,000.

BBC chairman Michael Grade said that an external review of BBC remuneration showed that the pubcaster paid its senior staff less than the commercial media sector.

But Grade announced that future bonuses would be capped at 10% of salary, instead of the present 30%.

“The BBC is different from commercial broadcasters,” he said. “We do not and cannot offer share options and long-term incentives and other financial awards, which are available to our private sector competitors.

“The BBC is a public sector organization with a guaranteed income, so this is how it should be.”

Union leaders, who in May persuaded staff to stage a 24-hour walk out in protest at Thompson’s changes, reacted furiously.

“We recognize it’s good that Mark Thompson has waived his bonus, when he’s presiding over such a large number of job cuts,” said Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theater Union official Luke Crawley. “It at least shows some awareness of what’s going on. But we call on other board members to follow suit and hand back their bonuses or risk being branded greedy and fat-cat executives, presiding over the decimation of the BBC.”

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