BBC Trust boss Rona Fairhead has been criticised for her links to HSBC by one of the corporation’s own reporters.
Earlier this week, the chair of the Public Accounts Committee Margaret Hodge MP called for her to resign or be sacked from her job overseeing the corporation because of her role as an independent director at scandal-hit bank HSBC.
Ms Fairhead was grilled by MPs on the committee over her oversight of the bank, which has come under fire over claims its Swiss private banking arm helped clients avoid millions of pounds in tax.
In a letter to the BBC’s internal magazine Ariel, radio journalist James Shippam said: “Why on earth is the chair of the BBC Trust permitted to have interests in commercial companies? I appreciate the need for such a figure to be high profile and to have the respect of the establishment and industry, but I cannot understand why the role is not a full-time position. It is, after all, paid a full-time salary (£110k per year).
“The whole affair simply seems to, once again, confirm that there is one rule for the bosses and another for the workers. The vast majority of BBC employees are prohibited from having a second job. The chair of the BBC Trust, as one of the most important media figures in the UK, should lead by example within the Corporation and espouse the BBC values of trust and impartiality. I fear the current situation makes that an impossibility.”
Writing in her defence, the Trust’s director Jon Zeff said: “Rona Fairhead has made it absolutely clear that she is committed to her role as chairman and that the BBC is her main priority. It is in the public’s interest to have trustees from a wide range of backgrounds with a broad range of expertise.”
Ms Fairhead has described as untrue reports she is paid £10,000 a day by the bank.
HSBC’s annual report showed she received £513,000 in fees and benefits last year including a £334,000 fee as non-executive chairman of HSBC North America Holdings.