Tuesday 20 August 2019

Lord Hall says amount spent ‘proportionally on talent has come down’ at BBC

The BBC’s director-general has spoken ahead of the corporation’s annual report on Tuesday, which will unveil the pay packets of its top earning stars.

Lord Hall says the BBC is a ‘fairer organisation’ (Justin Tallis/PA)
Lord Hall says the BBC is a ‘fairer organisation’ (Justin Tallis/PA)

By Sherna Noah, PA Senior Entertainment Correspondent

The BBC has taken big steps to becoming a “fairer organisation” since the salaries of its highest-earning stars were first revealed two years ago, its director-general has said.

Lord Hall said that the corporation’s annual report, which will unveil the pay packets of its top stars when it is published on Tuesday, is expected to show that 45% of its biggest earners will be women, compared to just 25% three years ago.

In a blog on the Huffington Post, Lord Hall said that the corporation had been “rightly criticised for a lack of female representation” after 2017’s annual report, but that they have “come a long way to becoming a fairer organisation since then”.

The simple truth is we have spent more than ever on content, but the amount we have spent proportionally on talent has come down

The simple truth is we have spent more than ever on content, but the amount we have spent proportionally on talent has come down

He said it is “a huge amount of progress but there is still more to do”, adding: “I want to get to 50:50.”

The BBC’s 2017 annual report sparked a gender pay gap dispute as only 34 women featured on the 96-strong list of employees earning more than £150,000.

There were also no women featured in the band of earnings above £500,000 that year, with Chris Evans the biggest earner on more than £2 million.

On last year’s 64-strong list, 22 of the names listed were women, representing just over a third (34%) of the total list.

However, the report revealed that the top 12 highest earners at the BBC were all men, with Gary Lineker highest earner on between £1,750,000 – £1,759,999.

In his blog, Lord Hall defended the high salaries of some its stars, saying that many of them would “earn significantly more elsewhere – and recent departures to commercial rivals show this argument isn’t hollow.

“The simple truth is we have spent more than ever on content, but the amount we have spent proportionally on talent has come down.”

Lord Hall also urged people to pay attention to the facts about the BBC rather than “myths” around the number of staff employed, whether they are wasteful and their commercial operations.

The BBC’s annual report will be its first salary disclosures since announcing it would be scrapping the universal free TV licence for over-75s.

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Gary Lineker was last year’s top earner at the BBC (Isabel Infantes/PA)

The Government first forced the broadcaster to publish the pay of dozens of its top presenters in 2016, in a move criticised by some as a “poachers’ charter”.

Since then, some of the BBC’s big name male stars such as John Humphrys and Huw Edwards have taken salary cuts, while previous top-earner Evans quit the BBC.

The new disclosures come as several female presenters have landed top jobs, including Zoe Ball taking over from Evans on Radio 2’s Breakfast Show.

Sara Cox landed the Radio 2 Drivetime show and Fiona Bruce took over from David Dimbleby on Question Time.

But not all big-name salaries will be revealed, with the BBC defying calls to publish salaries of those paid through BBC Studios, which is not funded by the licence fee and is a commercial entity.

It is thought that Claudia Winkleman, Ball and fellow DJ Vanessa Feltz are now in the list of top 10 highest paid.

The salaries come after the BBC announced that free licences will be restricted to over-75s who claim Pension Credit from June 1 next year.

Many have urged the Government to commit to the funding, saying it needs to honour the Conservative Party’s 2017 manifesto pledge.

The Government has transferred responsibility to the BBC for the entitlement.

The BBC has said that funding the universal scheme would mean the closure of BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, the BBC Scotland channel, Radio 5 Live, and several local radio stations.

Last year, salaries were revealed in bands of £10,000 – this year they will be disclosed in bands of £5,000.

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