Belfast Telegraph

BBC's 'talent pay' slashed by £6m

The amount paid to the BBC's top stars was slashed by more than £6 million last year, the corporation has revealed.

Details of the BBC's so-called "talent pay" was included in its annual report.

The corporation has been heavily criticised for the amount it pays its top talent with presenters including Jeremy Clarkson and Graham Norton reportedly among its biggest earners.

In its annual report for 2013/14, the BBC said talent pay was cut by more than £6 million, bringing a 15 per cent fall in its talent bill since 2009.

The number of senior managers was cut by eight per cent last year, the report said, while the number of top earners on salaries of more than £100,000 fell for the fourth consecutive year.

The BBC said it was "delivering on its commitments", with popular shows such as Sherlock and Happy Valley, despite a 26 per cent reduction in funds available for BBC services over six years.

It follows a licence fee freeze and new commitments given to the BBC such as part-funding the roll-out of superfast broadband.

BBC director general Tony Hall also pledged a four per cent increase in spending on content and delivery over the next three years.

Meanwhile, governing body the BBC Trust said the corporation fell short of licence fee-payers' expectations with its hefty payments to some former staff.

The BBC Trust said there had been successes, highlighting shows like Call The Midwife and Rev, but acting chairman Diane Coyle added: "There have also been some high-profile failures.

"The BBC's Digital Media Initiative project was closed at a cost of nearly £100 million.

"And there was the controversy surrounding past severance payments...

"Both of these episodes involved significant sums of public money and saw the BBC falling well short of what licence fee-payers expect."

Excessive payouts came under scrutiny last year when it emerged that deputy director-general Mark Byford left the BBC with a total payout of £949,000 and former chief operating officer Caroline Thomson was given £680,000.

George Entwistle took £470,000 when he resigned as director-general in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal after being in the role for just 54 days, with 150 managers between them receiving £25 million in pay-offs.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee was critical of the payments in a report late last year, with the chairman saying the BBC had "put its reputation at risk".

The report also showed that "audience appreciation" has decreased for BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three and BBC Four.

Ms Coyle said that the BBC had "found its feet" after a "bruising period".

She added: "The BBC executive has made good progress on its priorities for the past 12 months, and we are expecting further progress in the next year on areas including... the variety and originality of programmes, value for money and serving an increasingly diverse UK."

Audience appreciation of BBC television has fallen slightly for the first time in a number of years, to 82.1 per cent.

The BBC defended the fall at a press conference, saying that it was because it had done so well the previous year with the London Olympics, the European Championship and the Diamond Jubilee.

Danny Cohen, director of television, added: "There's no doubt if you take 26 per cent of your spending out, you are going to have an impact on how people feel about things.

"But I feel very, very confident in the quality of what we are doing, in its distinctiveness, and I feel very confident that the overall appreciation of our channels will grow."


From Belfast Telegraph