Sir Michael Lyons thinks the public would be reassured if they were allowed to know roughly how much the BBC pays its stars and executives.
It’s that word everyone’s so fond of: “Transparency. “
Transparency alone is not enough. Knowing the extent of something disturbing is a good start, but it isn’t the answer to the public’s dissatisfaction.
We want reassurance that we’re getting value for money, not just that Graham Norton and Fiona Bruce are raking in vast paypackets “because they’re worth it.”
When Christine Bleakley dithered over her decision to join Adrian Chiles at ITV, her dilemma was presented as a matter of whether to follow the money or preserve her integrity by not being greedy, and staying with the superior BBC for a modest sum. Well, not exactly modest; but what do I know.
Her departure endorsed the market forces argument, which the BBC always uses to defend huge salaries, while their pre emptive sacking of Bleakley made them appear frugal and resolute. It gave them the opportunity to pose as unwilling participants in a bidding war, which was angled to make them appear concerned about spending our money. Maybe they hoped that wouldn’t undermine their their market forces argument; that if you wants talent you pays for it.
Maybe they thought that transparency over pay would allay the public’s disquiet over salaries. But I don’t think it would alleviate the confusion over what actually constitutes talent, and what constitutes greed, and what constitutes quality.
Only on the BBC does a discussion concerning the exorbitant salaries of senior civil servants morph into a discussion on why the salaries of those employed in the private sector should not also be publicly displayed? Check out the interview on Today @ 7.51am. They do not understand the difference between those on the State payroll and those who make their own income.
The Times reports: Jana Bennett, BBC TV chief, says stars’ pay is too complex to understand
The BBC will not disclose the salaries of its top stars because the public would not understand why they are so high, according to one of the corporation’s top executives.
She said: “The BBC is in a market; in the broader sense it’s part of the creative industries. It performs a fundamentally different role than that performed by, for example, policemen or teachers. It is a category error to suggest that the public would actually be able to contribute to working out what we do about it. It’s like me talking about Tom Cruise’s movie deals. I’m not of that sector.”
Ed Vaizey, the Shadow Culture Secretary, said that if a politician made similar comments there would be outrage. “A politician caught on camera saying the public don’t understand why we need to be paid £120,000 gets a front page and outrage. What Jana is saying is that the public don’t have the right to know talent and executives’ pay at the BBC because they wouldn’t understand why they’re paid that money,” he said. “ I think you’d find the public is far more sophisticated than your remarks suggest.”
The Magistrate on BBC expenses :
Of course there is a proportion of people who just don’t like paying any bill, but let’s put this into perspective.
The licence fee is more than two weeks of Jobseeker’s Allowance, and about a day-and-a-half’s worth of the average wage. The £2000 spent on flying the boss’s family back because Sir had to sort out the Ross/Brand fiasco represents more than 33 weeks’ worth of JSA for the poorest licence payers. So come and have a look at JPs fining the unlicensed in – note – a criminal court.
Then, next time you want to charge up a £200 lunch at the Ivy for two people who are already well-off you will have a better idea of where the money comes from. I’ll be happy to arrange it, and I might even come along myself.
So what do you make of the news that dozens of top BBC stars have been told to expect savage pay cuts of up to 40 per cent?
Jonathan Ross, Jeremy Clarkson and Graham Norton are among those facing swingeing reductions in their huge salaries as the corporation tries desperately to save money. About 100 of the corporation’s most popular performers were summoned to a meeting where BBC director-general Mark Thompson warned them that, in the current economic climate, slashing fees is inevitable.
I have to admit I have a soft spot for Wogan – but as for Wossy and co, 40% is only a start. 100% would be better!