Kamal Ahmed, the editorial director of BBC News, is involved in an internal review of how to more strictly enforce the corporation’s rules on staff speaking engagements, BuzzFeed News has learned, just days after he was forced to apologise for agreeing a £12,000 fee for a private speech to hedge fund managers.
A BBC spokesperson confirmed that it is looking at the enforcement of its existing rules. The review comes in the wake of a series of embarrassing high-profile stories over the last year about senior staff being paid for extracurricular speaking engagements.
“We already have policy guidelines and guidance in place around staff speaking engagements and we are looking at ways of enforcing these existing rules better,” the spokesperson said.
However, a BBC source explained that the review had been underway for some time and was not a reaction to last week’s Ahmed story. They confirmed that the executive remained involved in the process as a member of the senior news leadership team.
The Mail on Sunday revealed last weekend that Ahmed agreed a £12,000 fee from Aberdeen Standard Investments to speak to an audience of hedge fund managers, just days after culling 450 staff as part of £80 million cuts.
Ahmed’s ongoing involvement in the review of staff speaking arrangements is likely to further raise eyebrows in light of his own outside interests, especially as the corporation is going through deep cuts. He was already under fire from BBC staff for his handling of the cuts and layoffs, in particular the axing of the Victoria Derbyshire show.
After the story broke, Ahmed, who cannot charge for speaking gigs in his current role, apologised to BBC staff for accepting the payment and said he would not take the money.
In his email to staff, obtained by the Financial Times, he said he had agreed to the engagement in his capacity as the BBC’s former business editor, adding: “I realise now that I did not think things through sufficiently at the time of the booking and, although I did not break any of the BBC’s guidelines on internal speaking, it was a mistake to agree to a fee.”
BuzzFeed News has previously reported that other senior BBC journalists have spoken at corporate events. Last April, Jon Sopel, the BBC's North America editor, delivered an off-the-record keynote address to executives at tobacco giant Philip Morris International's staff conference in Miami.
The BBC’s editorial guidelines allow BBC journalists to carry out external speaking as long as they maintain objectivity and impartiality. The journalists are allowed to accept payments for these appearances.