BBC’s value under question as salaries disclosure reveals big earners and gender pay gap

The list shows that the broadcaster pays 96 on-air personalities at least £150,000

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 July, 2017, 1:03am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 July, 2017, 1:03am

The publicly funded BBC was forced to publish the names and salaries of its highest-earning actors and presenters, unleashing a debate about fame, gender, race and the use of taxpayers’ money.

The list shows that the BBC pays 96 on-air personalities at least £150,000 (HK$1.5 million) a year. The broadcaster’s best-paid star, radio host Chris Evans, earns more than £2.2 million pounds.

The BBC was forced by the government to publish the ­salaries. The information is ­sensitive because the BBC is ­funded by ­taxpayers, though the £147 annual television licence.

The salaries were published in bands, rather than exact figures. Evans gets between £2.2 million and £2.25 million. Match of the Day host Gary Lineker receives between £1.75 million and £1.8 million, while talk-show host ­Graham Norton is paid between £850,000 and £900,000.

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Two-thirds of the top earners are men. The highest-paid woman – Strictly Come Dancing host Claudia Winkleman – earns less than a quarter of Evans’ salary.

Newsreader Huw Edwards is paid over £550,000 – £200,000 more than Fiona Bruce, who does much the same job.

The highest earners are also largely white. No ethnic-minority star is paid more than 300,000 pounds per year.

BBC chief Tony Hall said the list showed “the need to go further and faster on issues of gender and diversity”, but defended the high salaries.

“The BBC does not exist in a market on its own where it can set the market rates,” he said. “If we are to give the public what they want, then we have to pay for those great presenters and stars.

The list doesn’t include BBC talent paid by outside production companies. That may explain the absence of big-name stars including nature presenter David Attenborough and Top Gear host Matt LeBlanc.

Conservative MP John Whittingdale said taxpayers deserve to know who at the BBC was earning high salaries “and reach a judgment for themselves of whether that is good value for money”.

But others argued the information would erode public support for the BBC and likely drive salaries up, as BBC staff who aren’t on the list demand raises.

Steven Barnett, professor of communications at the University of Westminster, said the disclosure drive had “nothing to do with transparency”.

“I think this was a deliberate campaign to undermine and destabilise an institution that some self-interested parties would like to see weakened,” he said, pointing to some politicians and executives at the BBC’s privately owned rivals.