THE BBC has been criticised for refusing to explain the continued absence of star regional presenter Christa Ackroyd who has now been missing from the flagship news programme Look North for seven weeks.
Despite her disappearance from the programme Ms Ackroyd is still being paid at a rate of more than £150,000 a year, prompting questions about the spending of licence feepayers’ money.
A BBC spokeswoman said Ms Ackroyd was off air for “editorial reasons” but declined to clarify what the phrase actually meant.
The corporation has also refused to explain how Ms Ackroyd is paid amid rumours of a disagreement over her freelance status when she essentially has full-time employment with the BBC.
Last November the BBC announced it was to review the freelance contracts of more than 800 on-air staff being paid through their own companies after questions were raised about the implications for the payment of tax.
Matthew Sinclair, TaxPayers’ Alliance chief executive, said: “Many Look North viewers will find it bizarre that one of the permanent faces of the show has been employed on a freelance basis.
“BBC bosses have rightly had to face the music over off-payroll arrangements for presenters and they must be totally transparent in dealing with the issue.
“The BBC has a duty to show how it spends licence fee payers’ money, yet the continued non-answers from the corporation over the popular presenter’s absence raises questions about how it is doing just that.”
Last night a BBC insider expressed frustration that staff were not being told why Ms Ackroyd was still off screen. The source said: “We are being kept in the dark over why she isn’t working here. No explanation has been offered to us at all.”
Ms Ackroyd, 55, did not respond to a request to comment.
She has presented Look North for more than a decade after moving from Yorkshire Television’s rival regional news programme, Calendar, in 2001.