There’s always a day to bury bad news. To coincide with the political spectacle of the Tory leadership contest filling up the tabloids and broadsheets, the BBC chose to release its annual report on its highest-paid presenters. Call me a cynic but I can’t help but feel this is a carefully timed media campaign to distract attention away from the corporation revealing a series of astronomical and unjust pay rises.
One of the biggest was Naga Munchetty. The BBC Breakfast presenter has received a £110,000 pay increase, taking her annual salary upwards of £370,000. Greg James’ salary has increased by £80,000, taking him towards £400,000. I’ve got nothing against the man, but that’s probably because I have no idea who he is. Perhaps that’s my fault and I am showing my age.
I just would have thought that if he was being paid that much he must be a household name. Meanwhile, someone I have heard of, Steve Wright, appears to have taken a £15,000 pay cut. But that might be because the veteran DJ had his show cancelled. No doubt yet another victim of the tried and tested BBC formula of being pushed out the door for being old and white. Just ask Sue Barker.
Other well-known stars to take a pay cut include Gary Lineker. The former footballer turned punditry guru recently made the headlines when he claimed he was the victim of bullying as a child; because apparently he is black. Which came as surprising news to a lot of people, including myself. Linekar’s salary has decreased by £10,000; from £1,360,000 to a paltry £1,350,000.
I stand by his brave decision to take such a massive pay cut. How he will survive I do not know. The man’s work ethic is relentless: the Match of the Day presenter provides a few minutes of incisive analysis during a highlights package discussing equally dull, overpaid people kicking a football.
Meanwhile, your 85-year-old grandmother is receiving endless threatening letters demanding she pays her TV licence, when she’s already sold the television to pay her heating bill.
With some 25 million people coughing up the annual £159 TV tax, it’s nice to know the corporation can still afford to pay Zoe Ball just short of a million pounds a year. Yet as the host of the Radio 2 breakfast show she has lost over one million regular listeners. I am all for performance-related pay but the BBC simply does not understand its audience. Or in some cases, doesn’t listen to them at all.
With the list of Tim Westwood’s alleged sexual improprieties only now just coming to light — coupled with the news that the corporation knew about a historic complaint against the DJ — the institution’s reputation is hanging in the balance.
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When challenged on the pay increases, Director General Tim Davie argued: “We’re showing incredible restraint in a market that’s being driven by extreme hyper-inflation and competition.” And that is exactly the problem.
Should a publicly funded institution really be boasting about paying presenters such huge salaries? It sends the signal that it is in the business of competing for talent with the commercial sector. In which case it is not a public service broadcaster.
Besides the monumental waste of money, the other issue that continues to plague aunty is that of neutrality. Whether that’s Emily Maitlis’ editorial screed against Dominic Cummings or Gary Linekar’s perpetual Twitter virtue-signalling, its presenters frequently display their true ideological colours.
Former D.G. Mark Thompson publicly stated that “there was a massive left-wing bias at the BBC.” This may explain why the public have little trust in the BBC. In its latest report, just 51 per cent of UK adults believe the corporation provides impartial news.
The Royal Charter is up for renewal in 2027. If the corporation wants to win back not only the trust of its audience but survive in its current form as a publicly funded institution, then it urgently needs to address these issues.