Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Fury over Stephen Nolan £5,000 a show deal

MP demands an explanation after costs are exposed

Stephen Nolan

BBC Northern Ireland is planning to pay Stephen Nolan £5,000 a programme to present his new television show.

An early budgeting document for the programme, obtained by the Belfast Telegraph, estimates the presenter will be paid the staggering figure for each day he is involved in the production — and £55,000 overall for the series.

By contrast the estimated pay for a reporter on the show — initially known as Nolan On The Box but now retitled The Nolan Show, to be broadcast at 10.35pm — is a mere £200 per episode.

Nolan's fee is two-and-a-half times the total put aside for potential guests on the show, which airs next month.

The document also reveals that the Radio Ulster and Five Live star is to be given a one-off £4,000 ‘presenter wardrobe' allowance.

In all, the entire series is expected to cost just over £500,000 — a figure that includes a tailor-made set built at an estimated cost of £20,000 and which, according to a source at Broadcasting House, may never even be used.

These latest revelations will add fuel to the ongoing row over the non-disclosure of local BBC presenters’ salaries, and in particular that of Nolan, widely believed to be the highest-paid broadcast journalist in the province by a large margin.

There are also concerns within Ormeau Avenue that Nolan has become too influential within BBC Northern Ireland — to the extent that the corporation's local bosses even allow him to operate as a stand-in presenter on national Radio Five Live when the programme he hosts goes up against his own Radio Ulster show.

Latest figures from Companies House show that his production company, Stephen Nolan Broadcasting, has cash reserves of just under £700,000.

That figure prompted East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell to challenge Nolan on-air about his BBC licence-funded salary.

The popular presenter (38) admitted that he set up his company in order to reduce his tax liability, adding: “I pay an accountant and I don't want to pay any more tax than I have to.”

Mr Campbell has now demanded an explanation from BBC NI as to how it can justify paying a local presenter £5,000 a show in the light of the corporation’s severe austerity measures.

He stated: “The BBC needs to confirm or deny that these are the amounts that he is being paid.

“He must be the highest paid presenter in Northern Ireland, whose salary we all pay, and nobody knows what it is. The BBC needs to become more open and transparent and hopefully this will be the beginning of them starting to go down that route.”

Nolan, whose morning show on Radio Ulster attracts the station's biggest audience, has had mixed fortunes with his previous forays into television.

His weekly Nolan Live TV programme from a few years back was generally well received but the more recent game show Panic Attack was widely panned by critics.

It is understood the proposed new television show will have a harder edge and more political content than its predecessor.

The BBC has declined to disclose any information on the budget for The Nolan Show under a Freedom of Information request by this newspaper, stating that it was excluded from the act “because it is held for the purposes of journalism, art or literature”.

A spokesman on Tuesday night said: “The BBC never discloses programme budgets or presenter salaries due to data protection and commercial issues. Audiences expect to see the best talent on the BBC and we always endeavour to balance delivering value for money while still providing programmes of a high quality.”

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