Belfast Telegraph

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Pay revelation shows BBC must cut costs

Editor's Viewpoint

Many people will be surprised by the revelation that BBC Northern Ireland paid staff a total of more than one million pounds last year for arriving early to work and staying on late.

Details of the BBC’s so-called ‘unpredictability’ payments were obtained by the Belfast Telegraph and they show that more than 200 employees were paid on average some £5,000 for working an unpredictable shift pattern — including weekends, evenings and mornings.

However, other broadcasters such as ITV and Sky do not award their employees these flexibility bonuses for unpredictable hours of work.

It is little wonder that the MP Sammy Wilson expressed his astonishment at the BBC bonuses and John O’Connell from the TaxPayers’ Alliance has spoken for many people by noting that “this will raise eyebrows”, branding the practice as outdated.

The BBC, with typical self-justification, says that it is impossible to broadcast 24 hours a day without employing people at unpredictable hours.

However, many thousands of employees work in a wide range of jobs without compensation for unpredictable hours, and are expected to get on with their work.

For many, including journalists in other organisations specialising in news reporting, this unpredictability is regarded as part of the job.

It has also been revealed that BBC salaries are significantly better than those for journalists working for other  important media outlets.

All of this must make people question the BBC’s value for money and how their licence fees are being spent. They are entitled to ask “What is going on at the BBC?”, particularly when the unpredictability payments are a tax at the point of use.

The BBC, for all its many faults, remains one of the best broadcasting organisations in the business.

There is a wide range of shows from stunning wildlife programmes to current affairs, first-class drama and light entertainment.

Nearer home, BBC Spotlight and the Stephen Nolan programmes have provided excellent investigative journalism, and most recently so in their revelations about the RHI cash for ash scandal.

Nevertheless, the BBC still needs to tighten up on its expenditure.

The BBC licence-payers continue to appreciate high quality, but they certainly do not want to pay through the nose for it.

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