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Culture Secretary Maria Miller: ‘The BBC gets special treatment – scandals have damaged Britain’

By Darren Boyle

Culture Secretary Maria Miller told Parliament that ongoing BBC scandals have the ability to tarnish Britain’s reputation around the globe.

She said yersterday that public confidence in the corporation has been shaken by scandals such as Jimmy Savile and the costs associated with scrapping the £100 million digital media initiative.

Miller told MPs that the BBC was closely associated with Britain and as a result the country was damaged by the successive scandals.

She said: "I don't think we should confuse the poor judgment of some management and that failure of the few with the world-class programming produced by the many.

"But what is clear is the BBC asks for special treatment and it gets special treatment. It gets a £3 billion a year levy and it's an extremely important institution nationally and across the globe, as we've heard in today's extremely good debate.

"It's synonymous with Britain and perhaps that's why it's so damaging to see it plagued with one scandal after another.

"Many issues have contributed to making the last 12 months an annus horribilis for the BBC from Savile to (Lord) McAlpine, from the failed Digital Media Initiative to exorbitant severance payments.

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"And to say as a nation we've been disappointed is an understatement.

"What we all want and expect from the BBC, both now and in the future, is, I think, relatively uncontroversial.

"We expect a BBC that's focused on producing programming of the highest quality, we expect a BBC that sets the highest standards of behaviour and respect throughout the organisation and we expect the BBC's independence to be beyond question.

"But we also expect it to be accountable to the public who pay for it ,for the way it spends their licence fee money.

"Therefore it is absolutely to be expected that both the public and the Commons reacts when those standards are not met and that the trust and management not only act effectively to address the issues of real public concern which have arisen, but are seen to act as well."

She continued: “When the BBC fails to adhere to the standards we expect and does so repeatedly, the potential for damage is great and I think goes well beyond our shores and perhaps is another reason why today's debate has at times been so heated.

"Because the BBC has an important role in helping us preserve what it is that's great about our nation and actually taking forward to a wider audience what Britain stands for today. And that's why I think as a brand and as a business it has a powerful role to play."

Lord Patten (Reuters)

BBC chiefs will today have to defend spending £5 million on investigating Jimmy Savile in front of a high powered parliamentary committee.

BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten and director general Tony Hall will be grilled on the figures – including more than £1 million spent on legal fees – by the Commons culture comittee.

The Pollard review which looked into the reasons behind the corporation’s decision to drop a Newsnight investigation into Savile cost £2.4 million.

Helen Boaden, who stepped aside as head of news in the wake of the scandal received £101,000 to cover her legal and related bills.

The doomed director general George Entwistle, who received a payoff of £450,000 despite only being in the job 54 days, also received £107,000 for his legal expenses.

Entwistle replaced Mark Thompson whose own legal expenses cost a further £86,000. 

Patten and Hall also face questioning on the £100 million wasted on a computer system that never worked properly and had to be scrapped, as well as the costs of some staff being moved to Salford. 

It emerged last week that 11 staff members received payments of £100,000 to move north, with one receiving £150,000 to relocate. 

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