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BBC NI ordered to name all on £150k by 2017... but won't even reveal number

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 16/09/2016

Earnings: Chat show host Graham Norton’s wages will be revealed
Earnings: Chat show host Graham Norton’s wages will be revealed

BBC Northern Ireland is refusing to say how many of its stars will be affected by an order compelling it to reveal by next year the identity of all employees earning more than £150,000.

The corporation was told yesterday it will have to name its highest-paid staff and presenters in the future.

More than 100 of its best known faces will have their publicly-funded salaries disclosed by next summer.

It is part of Government reforms to make it clearer how the licence fee is spent. The clause will be included in a draft of the BBC's next Royal Charter.

However, the BBC was last night remaining tight-lipped on how many of its Northern Ireland 'talent' this will involve.

BBC NI said yesterday: "The director of BBC Northern Ireland's salary has been made publicly available for several years.

"Regarding other staff and talent, we'll publish the information we're required to in the next annual report."

The BBC's secrecy was criticised by DUP MP Sammy Wilson.

"It is ironic that this is the body that demands transparency in all other aspects of public life," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"It criticises bodies which it believes are not transparent enough, and yet it is one of the most secretive and closed public bodies. It gets over £3.5bn worth of public money, and yet is not prepared to say how it is spent."

Currently the BBC only reveals the salary details of executives who earn more than £150,000. They include its Northern Ireland director Peter Johnston. His salary is £145,000, but he receives total remuneration of £152,800.

Mr Wilson said the continued secrecy surrounding pay was evidence that it would embrace the reforms with great reluctance.

"This indicates that the BBC intends to fight the whole way against the new Charter," he added.

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said publishing the salaries would bring the BBC "in line with the Civil Service" on transparency.

The draft Royal Charter will be debated in Stormont, as well as the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly.

The proposals go further than those of former minister John Whittingdale, who had suggested naming those above £450,000.

That would have led to just seven stars being named.

But the new plans, part of the BBC Charter review, mean 109 high-profile figures will be identified based on the latest figures.

Among those likely to make it on to the list are football host Gary Lineker, chat show host Graham Norton and presenter Jeremy Vine.

Earnings will be broken down into bands of £50,000, although the gaps will become smaller in future years. The details are set to be published in the 2016-17 annual report next summer.

BBC director general Tony Hall said: "Our position on talent pay has not changed and all major broadcasters have questioned the merit of the proposal. The BBC operates in a competitive market and this will not make it easier for the BBC to retain the talent the public love."

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