MP hits out as BBC salaries of stars like Nolan revealed
The BBC has been accused of dodging parliamentary scrutiny over the salaries of its highest-paid stars.
But the broadside from DUP MP Gregory Campbell was last night dismissed by the broadcaster, which accused him of talking "nonsense".
The BBC will today release long-awaited salary details of on-screen stars receiving over £150,000 a year.
Publication comes just one day before the House of Commons goes into summer recess, prompting Mr Campbell's attack.
Well-known Northern Ireland presenter Stephen Nolan is expected to feature on the high-earners list, alongside such names as Gary Lineker, Graham Norton, Chris Evans, Laura Kuenssberg and Fiona Bruce.
Mr Campbell said the timing meant there would be no ministerial statement to the Commons on the BBC information.
"The BBC is our public sector broadcaster, paid for by the general public through the licence fee. The campaign to finally secure this level of transparency from the BBC has taken in the region of 10 years," Mr Campbell.
"Having firstly avoided taking this decision and, more lately, dragged their feet on publication of these details, the BBC is now finally releasing the information the day before Parliament rises for the summer and therefore avoiding detailed Parliamentary scrutiny."
The East Londonderry MP added: "The public knows well what various outlets across the BBC have to say about government departments or other public bodies which conveniently release information at such times in the hope that it won't make too much of a story.
"The timing of this publication demonstrates the BBC is often not prepared to provide the level of openness and transparency itself that it demands from others.
"They will not, however, avoid the harsh spotlight of truth, however much they try."
In a sharp retort, a BBC spokesperson said: "The Charter requires the BBC to publish pay information in the Annual Report which is always published around the same time each year, in mid-July, and will be available online for all to read.
"As usual, a Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee will have the opportunity to further scrutinise the report during a hearing in the autumn. We have been publishing the pay of senior managers of our own accord since 2009, and to suggest we are anything other than open and transparent is nonsense."
Mr Campbell has had repeated on-air run-ins with Stephen Nolan over the secrecy that surrounded BBC presenter pay.
Mr Nolan fronts shows on BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Five Live, working seven days a week.
He also presents the Nolan Live TV show on BBC1 Northern Ireland.
Last autumn, he said: "If the BBC decides to publish my salary I will be putting up no opposition whatsoever and no doubt it will be discussed on the show openly.
"I think they publish a total figure which is why I'm thinking it will combine the three jobs. It's going to be a lot of money.
"It will be interesting to see how fair the reporting around that is and if people will forget that I'm working three jobs, seven days a week."
The BBC has fought a long battle against disclosing the salaries of on-screen stars.
It successfully fended off freedom of information requests for the details more than 10 years ago. But the Westminster government last year insisted on disclosure of those earning more than £150,000.