Alan Yentob, the BBC's creative director, contacted a Radio 4 presenter who was about to broadcast a report on Kids Company, the now-closed south London charity of which he was the chair, the Daily Mail has reported.
This is not the first time Yentob has been accused of a conflict of interest regarding his roles at the broadcaster and the charity. In July he telephoned BBC Newsnight before it was preparing to reveal, in a joint report with BuzzFeed News, that the government was withholding £3 million of funding from the charity. A day later, he arrived uninvited at Radio 4's Today studio while the charity's chief executive, Camila Batmanghelidjh, was being interviewed.
Shortly after that he was involved in a stand-up row with BBC News special correspondent Lucy Manning, who was also reporting on the charity. He has also been criticised for devoting an entire episode of his arts show, Imagine, to an exhibition organised by the charity.
Today's Daily Mail claims that Yentob is guilty of "meddling" by phoning The World at One presenter Ed Stourton 45 minutes before he was due to go on air and report on the charity. The programme was preparing to cover a controversial email sent to the Cabinet Office, which Yentob signed. As BBC Newsnight and BuzzFeed News revealed, the email claimed that there would be "savagery" in south London and "arson attacks on government buildings" if Kids Company were to close.
The World at One had apparently invited Yentob on to defend his position, but instead of taking the programme up on the offer, the Daily Mail claims, he called Stourton behind the scenes from his mobile phone.
The paper quotes a "BBC insider" who says: "He's just embarrassing the BBC. Why doesn't [director-general] Tony Hall recognise that he is doing a lot of damage?" However, a BBC spokesman told the Mail: "In his role as chairman [Mr Yentob] can speak directly to media outlets and got in touch with the programme to explain the charity's position."
This is the second controversial story involving Yentob's relationship with his employer this month: Last week a former producer of Newsnight claimed that he had denounced him as a "traitor" to the BBC for looking into the Jimmy Savile controversy. He has also come in for criticism over the charity's financial management in the House of Lords, but has previously denied any allegations that the charity failed to balance its books.
The email on which The World at One was reporting contained the initial arguments for a Kids Company proposal for a £3 million grant from the Cabinet Office, which was supposed to be used to restructure the charity into a smaller "child wellbeing hub", but ended up being spent on overdue staff salaries. As BuzzFeed News and BBC Newsnight revealed, the decision to give the charity the money was made by ministers against the advice of the department's most senior civil servant, and in the event it only prolonged the charity's life by five working days.
The charity, which closed in July, is currently the subject of several investigations. The National Audit Office is investigating the money that Kids Company received from government, which in turn could potentially trigger a House of Commons Public Accounts Committee inquiry.
The House of Commons Public Administration Committee has already announced that it will look into "The extent of the government's relationship with Kids Company, including the appropriateness of the level of government funding distributed to the charity." The Charity Commission is also carrying out a "live compliance case" into the charity.
Finally, the complex case team of the Metropolitan police's sexual offences, exploitation, and child abuse command is also investigating allegations – first revealed by BBC Newsnight and BuzzFeed News – that potential crimes were not reported to the authorities.
The BBC has sent BuzzFeed News a full statement: “World at One contacted Alan Yentob to discuss Kids Company. In his role as chairman he can speak directly to media outlets and got in touch with the programme to explain the charity’s position. His BBC position doesn't have any editorial control over BBC News. As we’ve said before, the fact that the BBC broke this story shows that our journalism has been impartial and in the public interest.”