Belfast Telegraph

Norton defends big BBC earners

Graham Norton has defended the big pay packets given to some BBC stars, and said he isn't embarrassed about being one of the corporation's top earners.

The award-winning chat show host has released a new memoir, The Life And Loves Of A He Devil, which features subjects ranging from his dogs to divas, his love of booze, men and work, and tales of some of the most memorable guests on The Graham Norton Show.

The Irish funnyman is among the highest paid BBC presenters and is well aware of the criticisms made in recent years about the exorbitant fees commanded by top BBC stars.

But he is quick to note: "If you look at what proportion of the licence fee goes on paying on-screen talent, it's something tiny, not even 10 per cent. That's for everybody who appears. For me, the big question is trying to figure out what that remaining 90 per cent is spent on. That would be interesting...

"Most of the big earners pay their way. My show is shown in a bunch of countries and pays for itself. Shows like Top Gear, Doctor Who and mine pay into the BBC coffers."

He continued: "No one's worth these amounts of money, but if that's been decreed your market value, then who am I to argue? If I didn't have an agent, I'd still be doing the show for 150 quid. It's a gig. You just show up and do it."

Graham is the first to admit that Jonathan Ross' loss, after the much-publicised Sachsgate scandal, was his gain. Ross quit the BBC after he and Russell Brand were criticised for leaving smutty messages on veteran actor Andrew Sachs' answerphone during a pre-recorded Radio 2 show.

"His bad luck was my good luck," Graham reflected. "I felt bad for Jonathan and Russell. The comedy they splash around in is edgy - that's their job. It's somebody else's job to protect them and the audience. I can't believe a producer would have allowed that to be broadcast. It made everyone think, there but for the grace of God."

Graham's success looks set to continue as he has signed up with the BBC for another three years.

"I always have thoughts of retiring. I thought I'd be done by now. I thought I'd stop at 50 - but I'm still enjoying it. There are people I want on the show. We've never had George Clooney. We haven't had Brad or Angelina. Those are my three big 'gets'."

:: The Life And Loves Of A He Devil by Graham Norton is published by Hodder and Stoughton, priced £20.

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