BBC talent pay over US$198,000 to be made public

In a draft of the pubcaster's new charter, the British government has proposed increasing the number of on-air hosts and presenters whose salaries will be disclosed.
September 15, 2016

The British government wants to disclose the salaries of on-air BBC talent making more than £150,000 (US$198,000).

Among the 109 TV and radio hosts and performers that would be expected to declare their salaries are former Top Gear host Chris Evans, sportscaster Gary Lineker, talk show host Graham Norton and Strictly Come Dancing host Claudia Winkleman.

The UK’s new culture secretary, Karen Bradley, made the proposal in a draft of the pubcaster’s new charter, which outlines how the corporation will be run for the next 11 years, beginning in 2017.

In a white paper published in May, the government proposed publishing the salaries for talent earning more £450,000 (US$652,000), but Bradley said in a statement to parliament this week that the amount should be lowered to make the BBC “as open and transparent as possible.”

In response, the outgoing chair of the BBC Trust, Rona Fairhead, said she was “disappointed” with the change.

“We don’t agree with the government on everything and are disappointed with the decision on the disclosure of presenters’ pay,” she said in a statement. “We don’t believe this is in the long-term interests of licence fee payers.”

BBC director general Tony Hall added that all major broadcasters have questioned the merit of the proposal.

“The BBC is already incredibly transparent and we publish what we spend on talent pay – a bill which has fallen in recent years,” he said. “The BBC operates in a competitive market and this will not make it easier for the BBC to retain the talent the public love. Ultimately, the BBC should be judged on the quality of its programs.”

The draft charter also outlined the make-up of the BBC’s new governing structure. The BBC Trust is to be scrapped and replaced with a 14-member unitary board, while telecommunications regulator Ofcom will handle investigations and editorial complaints.

Bradley said the government would appoint the board chair and four national directors representing England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland while the BBC would appoint the remaining nine members – four BBC executives and five public appointees.

She promised a “full, fair and open competition” for the new board chair position, adding that “transparency and fairness in making the appointment is vital, not least so that industry and public have confidence.”

Hall welcomed the new board structure, saying in a statement, “I set out my concerns regarding the new board appointments back in May and said we would continue to make the case to the government. The BBC is a public service broadcaster – not a state broadcaster. I am glad they have reconsidered.”

On Tuesday (Sept. 13), Fairhead announced she would not compete for the new chair role and will resign her post earlier than expected. Initially, she had agreed to stay on through 2018 but will now stand down when the Trust is abolished in 2017.

The BBC’s current 10-year charter expires at the end of this year.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.