The BBC’s editorial director Kamal Ahmed has apologised to staff for accepting £12,000 to speak at a banking conference last week.
Ahmed, who was previously the broadcaster’s economics editor, accepted the fee for a 40-minute appearance at Aberdeen Standard Investments’ Investing for the Future event.
In an email to staff, shared with the Financial Times, Ahmed said he would no longer be taking the payment.
“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 external speaking, it was a mistake to agree to a fee,” he wrote.
“I wanted to say sorry that a mistake made by me has become a public and internal issue.”
The U-turn follows criticism both in the media and within the BBC about Ahmad’s decision to accept the hefty pay packet on top of his salary, which last year was between £205,000 and £209,999.
But John Sweeney, a former investigative journalist at the BBC, said the apology was not enough and called for the top executive to resign.
“Kamal Ahmed’s greed is not acceptable for BBC News editorial director or even the lowliest runner,” he wrote in a tweet.
Ahmed’s appearance came just days after the public service broadcaster announced it would slash roughly 450 jobs in a bid to save £80m by 2022.
A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC’s editorial guidelines allow BBC journalists to carry out external speaking, or chairing, engagements as long as they maintain objectivity and impartiality.”