Lords have lined up to attack the government’s plans to force the BBC to publish the salaries of stars who earn more than £150,000 ($182,000) a year.
In a late evening debate about the future of the BBC, several peers took issue with the transparency proposals, which were branded “ludicrous,” “mean and measly,” and ultimately unhelpful for licence fee payers. See full comments below.
They agreed with the BBC, which has said that revealing the pay of stars including Andrew Neil, Chris Evans, and Fiona Bruce would “not make it easier for the BBC to retain the talent the public love.”
Culture minister Lord Ashton noted his contemporaries had spoken “passionately and somewhat disparagingly” about star salaries, but insisted those who fund the BBC “deserve transparency.”
But the government has conceded some ground on the issue. Lord Ashton confirmed that stars who work for the BBC through BBC Studios will not have to disclose their pay.
This is because BBC Studios will become a commercial subsidiary from next year and the government agrees that talent pay transparency will “undermine” its ability to “compete effectively in the market.”
BBC talent pay: Lords have their say.
Lord Patten (former BBC Trust chairman).
“There is no public interest whatever in knowing what Gary Lineker is paid. It is merely a rather unpleasant, populist gesture towards some of our tabloids and will probably lead to pushing up talent pay rather than the opposite.”
Lord Birt (former BBC director general).
“The new requirement placed on the BBC to reveal the compensation of top talent is low politics. It will invade the privacy of people who are not determining how to spend the public’s money; it will frighten away talent; and it will sow unnecessary dissension.”
Lord Grade (former BBC chairman).
“I can confidently predict intense pressure from talent agents … comparing these lists against client deals they have negotiated. This pressure will be as certain as it is inflationary. I urge the government to drop this idea now, please believe me it will only cost the BBC dearly.”
“It is nothing short of pandering to governance by tabloids. We should be better than that.”
“This is mean and measly … This is a ridiculous proposal that will have the effect of poaching talent and increasing costs. Thinking about it, if a particular star is working for an independent that is producing a programme for the BBC, their salary does not have to be revealed. It makes a nonsense of what is being proposed.”