The BBC has finally released details of its highest paid staff in Northern Ireland — but is still refusing to come clean about how much top stars like Stephen Nolan take home in their wage packets.
The issue of payments to presenters was raised more than three years ago using the Freedom of Information Act.
But corporation lawyers keep putting forward new arguments to ensure only a slow drip-feed of information.
The Information Commissioner ruled months ago that, while senior employees’ exact salaries cannot be disclosed, their names and pay bands must be.
Reluctantly, the BBC has begun the task of opening to scrutiny payments to the top earners for the first time.
And heading the execs’ pay list is head of drama Patrick Spence who earns somewhere between £130,000 and £160,000.
Surprisingly, Northern Ireland controller Peter Johnston is only second on the list with an annual income between £100,000-£130,000.
Mr Johnston was appointed to the top post almost two years ago following the retirement of Anna Carragher.
Heads of department salaries range from £70,000 to £100,000 annually and include:
- Jeremy Adams (editor television current affairs);
- George Beckett (head of production, planning and development);
- Andrew Coleman (head of news and current affairs);
- Mike Edgar (head of entertainment, events);
- Lawrence Jackson (head of human resources and development), and;
- Susan Lovell (head of radio).
- Leslie S. MacLean (finance business partner) and Ailsa Orr (head of programmes) are on the same wage band.
Four other staff — not named — are also in the £70,000-£100,000 salary range and two in the £40,000-£70,000 bracket.
In releasing the information, the BBC said it did not agree with the commissioner’s decision on the scope of the Freedom of Information Act.
Payments made to individual presenters like Donna Traynor, Mark Carruthers or Stephen Watson can’t be revealed, according to the BBC, because their jobs do not involve decisions on spending “public money or taking influential public policy decisions”. The BBC has also long maintained that contractual agreements with Stephen Nolan and John Daly contain “express confidentiality provisions”.
By contrast, the Republic’s state broadcaster, RTE, was forced more than three years ago to reveal the wage scales of top presenters like Gerry Ryan and Pat Kenny as well as correspondents and senior editors.
One BBC insider said last night: “It’s illuminating to find out what the big boys are earning at a time when ordinary staff are facing job cuts to plug a budget shortfall.
“We’re feeling the squeeze big-time, but the current round of redundancies haven’t affected those at the top.”
A number of further applications on issues not yet divulged by BBC Northern Ireland have been forwarded by Sunday Life to the Information Commissioner’s office.