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Publishing BBC salaries not in interests of licence fee payers, says chairman

Published 15/09/2016

Graham Norton is thought to be on the list
Graham Norton is thought to be on the list

The outgoing BBC chairman has hit out at the Government's decision to force it to publish the pay of dozens of its top presenters.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley confirmed that under the corporation's new 11-year royal charter, it will be required to disclose the pay of staff and "talent" earning more than £150,000 a year.

Publishing the draft charter, Ms Bradley said in a Commons statement that the Government was determined the BBC should be as "open and transparent as possible".

But BBC Trust chairman Rona Fairhead condemned the move, warning it was not in the long-term interests of viewers amid fears it will find it harder to hold on its top stars.

"We don't agree with the Government on everything and are disappointed with the decision on the disclosure of presenters' pay," she said.

"We don't believe this is in the long-term interests of licence fee payers."

Under previous Government plans, the requirement to publish pay details would have been limited to those on more than £450,000, covering just seven stars.

However it is thought that more than 100 individuals will be caught by the new lower threshold, including football presenter Gary Lineker and chat show host Graham Norton.

Ms Bradley also confirmed the chairman of the new BBC Board - which takes over from the trust from next April - would be chosen by open competition.

Ms Fairhead announced on Tuesday she was standing down after being told by Theresa May that she would effectively have to re-apply for her job despite an assurance from David Cameron she would be able to carry on.

Confirming the move, Ms Bradley told MPs: "It is a significant new post, and transparency and fairness in making the appointment is vital, not least so that industry and the public have confidence."

In a departure from the Government's White Paper last May, Ms Bradley said the the majority of the board members would be appointed by the BBC itself - a move welcomed by BBC director-general Lord Hall.

"I set out my concerns regarding the new board appointments back in May and said we would continue to make the case to the Government," he said.

"The BBC is a public service broadcaster, not a state broadcaster. I am glad they have reconsidered. An independent and strong BBC is what the public want and demand."

Under the revised arrangements, nine board members - including five non-executive directors - will be appointed by the BBC and an additional five will be public appointments.

In other changes, the National Audit Office will become the BBC's financial auditor and the corporation has accepted the public sector cap of £95,000 on severance payments, ending six-figure pay-offs for senior managers.

Ms Bradley said: "The BBC is one of this country's greatest achievements and greatest treasures. These reforms ensure that it will continue to be cherished at home and abroad for many years to come."

Shadow culture secretary Kelvin Hopkins said the Government had been forced to backtrack on its "most extreme proposals" but concerns remain.

"There are still real concerns that the Government will seek to influence the BBC's editorial decision-making, and that the broadcaster will come under undue political interference as a result," he said.

The creation of the BBC Board will see the responsibility for regulating the corporation pass to Ofcom, which welcomed the publication of the draft charter.

"As regulator of the BBC, we will hold it to account and help ensure it meets the expectations of audiences," a spokesman said.

"In particular, the framework should be effective in ensuring the BBC is distinctive as the needs and tastes of audiences change over the lifetime of the charter."

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