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James Nesbitt a huge BBC star... but Auntie isn't paying him

By Lesley Houston

Published 22/07/2015

Starring roles: James Nesbitt
Starring roles: James Nesbitt

Northern Ireland actor James Nesbitt may be one of the BBC's most popular stars - but he isn't paid a penny by the Corporation itself, it has emerged.

The Coleraine man is among up to 20 high-profile artists whose pay is reportedly 'hidden' in the Beeb's accounts and kept off a £9m wage bill for top talent.

The national broadcaster has been accused of "duping" the public by paying independent production companies a lump sum for shows.

As the stars' salaries are included in this fee, it means their individual pay is not singled out.

Also on the list is Welsh singer Tom Jones, presenter of its talent show The Voice.

Multi-award winning Nesbitt most recently starred in the critically-acclaimed The Missing, which was made in co-operation with Belgian producers, meaning his name need not be included on the BBC's 'rich list'.

His Murphy's Law series was produced by Tiger Aspect Productions for BBC Northern Ireland.

He also starred in BBC One's drama serial Jekyll, produced by Hartswood Films and Stagescreen Productions. It has been claimed that Nesbitt is one of nine BBC stars who receive between £500,000 and £5m.

It is thought that up to 11 more may be in the same pay bracket with those topping £1m including Graham Norton, Gary Lineker and Jeremy Clarkson before his recent departure from Top Gear.

The total wage bill for presenters on over £1m rose a fifth to £5.1m.

The TV company is said to employ at least 74 bosses who earn more than David Cameron's salary of £142,500. Leicestershire Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen told The Sun: "The public has been duped over how much licence fee money is paid to stars. This raises serious questions about the honesty of BBC senior management."

However, a BBC spokesman said there had been no cover-up, as money handed to independent companies is in the annual report. Last year, that totalled £468m.

"The BBC, like all broadcasters, commissions some programmes from independent production companies and when we do, it is for them to engage and pay talent. Clearly the BBC is not responsible for the pay of those who are not engaged by us," the BBC said.

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