DO I care what the BBC’s star performers are paid? Not much – all of them are paid mountains more than most of us. Anyway, this enforced revelation is a government-sponsored bit of sabotage.
Originally, David Cameron insisted that the Corporation should have to reveal the pay of on-air talent paid more than £450,000 – “As I said to Sam, does anybody even get out of the four-poster for less than that?”
Theresa May, back in the days when she was a new broom and her bristles had yet to sag, insisted that this figure be dropped to £150,000 – bringing in many more of the familiar faces who pass on the news or entertain us on the BBC.
Later today, the BBC’s annual report will reveal the annual salaries of the presenters who earn above that level – said to be around 100.
The BBC-phobic newspapers are loving this, with the Daily Mail trampling its steel-capped Hush Puppies all over the story – “Pay panic at the BBC” and “Meltdown as dossier names 100 staff on more than the PM”.
I don’t expect that Paul Dacre of the Mail will be putting his payslip on the front page either. And this whole anti-Beeb exercise has come about because Call Me Moneybags Dave caved into pressure from the Mail for such a revelation. And all because the Mail loves nothing better than hating the BBC (witness some hysterical wetting of the Mail Y-fronts about having a female Doctor Who).
According to a quick Google, Dacre was reported to have taken home £1.5 million in 2016, just in case you were wondering.
What exercised the insanely irritable Dacre is that the Prime Minister earns £143,462 a year. And in curtain-twitching Mail-land, that ‘proves’ that BBC presenters are paid too much. No, it doesn’t. It suggests that the prime minister isn’t paid nearly enough. Not that I think Theresa should get a pay rise. The No 10 job is relatively poorly paid for PR reasons: no PM would dare ask for more. Anyway, ex-prime ministers usually go on to earn a packet on the speaking circuit. The last one was privately loaded and the present one is married to money. Few of them go short.
This BBC pay reveal has been introduced in the name of transparency, and yet many windows will still be netted. We will know how much the likes of Fiona Bruce, Graham Norton, Gary Lineker, John Humphrys and Laura Kuenssberg earn, but we won’t know how much their competitors earn at ITV, Channel 4 or Sky.
The picture is further muddied because some BBC faces are employed through third-party production companies, and their salaries won’t be revealed.
You might think that rival broadcasters would welcome this spot of BBC bashing, but Channel 4 and Channel 5 – ah, the unexplored Button Called Five – have criticised the idea. ITV’s programmes chief, Kevin Lygo, called the proposal a “mean-spirited, nosey way of looking at things” – and that sounds about right to me.
Salary comparisons only bring out the worst in us, with wallet envy guaranteed. People who like a certain broadcaster will probably say, “Oh, well – he’s worth it.” While those who dislike a broadcaster will complain that they shouldn’t possibly be paid such a fortune – with the much put-upon Kuenssberg being a likely target here.
This isn’t transparency but malicious meddling. The only place where transparency will throw a shaming light is on the different wages paid to men and woman doing the same or similar jobs, with only a third of those paid above £150,000 being women.
Sadly, the BBC bashers behind this pay reveal will not be happy until the Corporation has been dragged out of existence.