This morning the BBC released information regarding the salaries of their highest earning employees including the likes of Gary Lineker and Claudia Winkleman. We welcome this move towards greater transparency in the public sector, and some of the figures that have come out from this publication are rather alarming. For example, the highest paid member of the BBC is Chris Evans who earns a whopping £2.2 million, equivalent to 22,000 licence fees.
The report brought to light the significant pay gap between male and female stars working at the BBC; of all the stars earning more than £150,000, two-thirds are male and Claudia Winkleman, the highest paid woman at the BBC, earns over £1.5 million less than the highest paid man. Furthermore, there is a general lack of diversity amongst the highest-paid BBC stars; only 10 of the 98 highest paid BBC stars are people of colour and the seven presenters earning over £500,000 a year are all white men. Lord Hall has responded to this by saying that the BBC ‘recognise there is more to do’ in the area of gender equality and ‘are pushing further and faster than any other broadcaster’.
Perhaps, the money from these exorbitant salaries could be spent elsewhere on more educational and challenging programmes at the BBC in order to be more in line with their mission statement to inform, educate and entertain. Programmes like Strictly Come Dancing and other reality-based shows, like the ill-fated ‘The Voice’, which later moved to ITV, we would argue do not fulfil this mission statement and are not best placed on the channel such as the BBC.
The licence fee itself is a very regressive tax, instituted when there was only one television channel. Perhaps a more valid way of people paying for the BBC would be through a subscription service similar to that of Netflix so that people could voluntarily pay for the service. Until recently, people were imprisoned for non-payment of the fines dished out to those who refused to pay, and courts were clogged up with these cases. And let’s not forget about the infamous ‘detector vans’ the BBC claimed roamed the streets.
It’s about time that transparency of pay at the BBC has been brought into line with the disclosure arrangements of other areas of the public sector, such as councils. If ‘stars’ want to leave as a result, let them seek their fortune in the private sector; meanwhile, the BBC should remember its responsibility is to its licence fee payers.