We now know that Gary Lineker, apprentice Socialist and presenter of Match of the Day, earns somewhere between £1,750,000-£1,799,000 a year. Chris Evans earns even more. On the flip side, I can't believe how the BBC is getting away with paying Andrew Neil so little (£200,000-£249,000) in comparison to someone like Huw Edwards, who gets paid £550,000-£599,000 a year. There is also a perceived gender pay gap. On his LBC show yesterday, Iain Dale asked Theresa May if Gary Lineker was worth ten Claire Baldings. That is a question that's going to hang around for a long time.
The BBC, in its defence, says that it operates in a competitive market place, and has to pay its talent competitive rates of pay. Lord (Tony) Hall, Director-General, has stated that the BBC pays much of its talent below market rates.
The BBC published all of this information yesterday in its annual report because it was forced to by the Government. Kicking and screaming is an apt phrase to describe it. It is right, though, that the corporation has been forced to do this. It is a publicly funded broadcaster, and if you want to watch live television in the UK, you must pay £147 a year to the BBC, irrespective of whether or not you consume BBC content. During an interview yesterday morning, ahead of the report's publication, I was asked if I thought that I got good value from the BBC. (You can hear my response, and listen to the full interview, by click on the image below)
What I tried to put across yesterday, as did Philip Davies MP in an interview with Eddie Mair on BBC Radio 4's PM programme, is that the BBC can't have it both ways. If it wants to keep the licence fee, it has to accept the transparency that comes with it. If it doesn't want to be forced to publish salaries, it should get the licence fee scrapped, become a private company, and get its income by subscription, syndication, and worldwide sales.
Finally, for more about BBC pay and the gender pay gap, listen to Eddie Mair's grilling of James Purnell. Many will remember Purnell as a failed politician. Unfortunately for licence fee payers, Lord Hall gave him a plum job at the BBC a few years' ago. When you listen to the interview, you will hear that he has lost none of his slipperiness.