Come clean over axed Christa Ackroyd, MP urges BBC

PRESSURE is mounting on the BBC to act with transparency and lay bare the details behind the departure of its star Yorkshire news anchor.

Christa Ackroyd and husband Chris at home near Halifax

The Yorkshire Post yesterday revealed Look North co-host Christa Ackroyd parted ways with the corporation after an investigation was launched into her tax arrangements.

Now MPs are demanding clarity from the BBC, which said the freelance presenter’s deal – worth around £180,000 a year – was terminated owing to a “breach of contract”, but has declined to go into any further detail.

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Ms Ackroyd, 55, vanished from the show around four months ago and is understood to have been paid around £60,000 since her last appearance on February 28.

Her absence was put down to “editorial reasons” until Wednesday, when it was finally confirmed she would not be returning.

It is understood her contract, which had months to run, was axed because of concerns she had not been frank about the tax inquiry when she was contractually obliged to disclose anything which could damage the BBC’s reputation.

Calling for answers, Shadow Culture Secretary Dan Jarvis said: “Any organisation which commits public funds must take responsibility for the decisions they make.

“The public expect and deserve the highest standards of transparency, so I would now expect the BBC to move speedily and allay people’s concern about this matter and a statement clarifying their position would be helpful.”

The Barnsley Central Labour MP said he was sad to see Ms Ackroyd leave the show, adding: “She was not only a dedicated and professional journalist but she radiated a calm authority which meant she was very popular with viewers across our region.”

Shipley MP Philip Davies, a member of the Commons’ culture, media and sport select committee, has previously branded the BBC’s handling of the situation a “farce” and insisted the corporation had a public duty to account for what had happened.

“While ever they expect the public to stump up £3.5bn to fund them they have got to be more transparent,” he said.

The Conservative MP, who raised the issue with BBC Director General Lord Hall last month, added: “They certainly don’t pay a licence fee to pay a huge salary to someone who isn’t working.”

Ms Ackroyd is paid through her company, Christa Ackroyd Media, which would be responsible for payment of tax.

HM Revenues and Customs, which is understood to be investigating, said it does not comment on individual cases. It is not known what issues it is examining.

The BBC again declined to release any more details about Ms Ackroyd’s departure last night.

Ms Ackroyd also said she could not comment further but reiterated that she wished her former colleagues and the programme well.

She added: “I would like to thank everyone who has sent me messages of support for the future.”

In a statement after her departure was announced on Wednesday, Ms Ackroyd said she had thoroughly enjoyed her 12 years on the show and paid tribute to its “dedicated and talented team”.

“I’ve been proud to work alongside them – particularly with my friend of many years, Harry Gration,” she said.

“I look forward to the next phase as a Yorkshire journalist of more than 30 years standing.”

A BBC spokeswoman said no decision had yet been made about who would take her place.

Staff were informally told “Look North is bigger than any one presenter” when they were notified of Ms Ackroyd’s departure by head of BBC Yorkshire Helen Thomas, the Yorkshire Post understands.

Ms Ackroyd, who was born and educated in Bradford, started her career at the Halifax Courier, where she worked for four years before breaking into radio.

A stint at Pennine Radio was followed by a job at Radio Aire, where she became the country’s first female radio news editor.

Ms Ackroyd joined the BBC from rival ITV regional news programme Calendar in 2001 and has received around £2m from the corporation since then.