Belfast Telegraph

We pay for BBC, but is it value for money?

Editor's viewpoint

The BBC has finally bowed to public pressure and revealed what it pays its top talent. This is a long overdue move by the broadcaster, which is funded by us through the licence fee, currently standing at £147 a year for most householders.

But it was a move resisted by the corporation, which had to be dragged squealing and kicking to this point.

Arguments that it could lead to its top talent being poached by other broadcasters don't stand up to scrutiny as broadcasting is a relatively small world with few secrets among those in it. And, like footballers, the top names have agents who work out the best deals for them.

While there is the obvious knee-jerk reaction at the amounts paid to BBC stars, some of it is merely the politics of envy, while others who have been held to account by broadcasters now see a chance for some revenge with caustic comments.

Ultimately, the public is being asked to pay 40p a day to fund the BBC and, in return, gets an unparalleled range and unequalled quality of programming on television, radio and online. It is public broadcasting of which the rest of the world is rightly envious.

That does not mean the BBC is beyond criticism. The gender gap revealed among the top salary earners is staggering, with less than one-third of the 96 stars earning £150,000-plus being women.

It was also revealed that some of the lowest paid production workers earn only £16,000 a year - a tiny fraction of what top earner Chris Evans gets from the corporation.

While the new transparency is welcome, it is not complete, with the BBC still declining to say what it pays some of its stars through their production companies.

One of those is Stephen Nolan, the only BBC Northern Ireland employee on the list. He earns between £400,000 and £449,000 for his work on radio and television both locally and nationally, but also an undisclosed sum from his production company's work with the BBC.

As he says, he hasn't done badly for someone from Ballygomartin in north Belfast, but he has worked hard for it and yesterday went on air to defend his salary. If we are honest, all of us would jump at the opportunity to earn a similar wage and none of us would willingly take a pay cut.

The question remains how much are we prepared to pay for the programming of the BBC, and do we think it is still value for money?

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