Belfast Telegraph

I work hard for it: Stephen Nolan outlines facts of BBC salary - but is he value for money?

Stephen Nolan
Stephen Nolan
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

Stephen Nolan has defended his BBC salary, saying he always set out to earn as much as possible.

Speaking on Radio Foyle, he outlined the facts of what he does to earn his over £400,000 a year salary also saying he cared about the people he engaged with.

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He said: "I would not be as arrogant to say what I am worth. But I am fair game and ready and prepared to answer questions.

"The facts are that I am doing five radio shows a week on Radio Ulster. I'm doing three Nolan shows on 5 Live, it's a network job. Then I do Question Time Extra time, another job I managed to get. And then I am doing 18 Nolan Live television shows a year.

"Now it's for others and its for the BBC to decided.... The BBC has very skilled negotiators who understand the market and they try to negotiate what they think they need to pay for the presenters they want.

"And I want to work at the BBC.

"I have always said from day one I want to work as much as I can, as hard as I can, be the best I can be and yeah I want to earn as much as I can."

 I care about the BBC, I care about the people who engage with my programmes. Stephen Nolan

He refused to disclose what he was paid from his production companies saying it was "commercially sensitive" but freely available through company records. He also said he could not disclose his exact salary as it was BBC policy but if the broadcaster wanted to do that he would be supportive.

And he said he had received other offers from rivals for "more money and less work".

"But it is a pleasure for me to work at the BBC."

The presenter said the coverage of the salaries since their release had been "fair" but would not comment on other stars' pay.

"Whether people believe it or not. Not only do I care about the BBC, I care about the people who engage with my programmes. It is a privilege to do so. Don't forget the BBC wouldn't let me in the door, I had to fight to get in.

"Let others decide what they want to say about me."

His appearance on Radio Foyle was at odds with his earlier statement that he would speak about pay on his Thursday Radio Ulster Show. He was offered the chance to go on BBC Talkback, which went out at the same time as his Radio Foyle interview, but he declined.

"This will be an interesting day," the broadcaster said on opening his Radio Ulster show on Wednesday morning before his earnings were revealed.

I will be as accountable to all of you as we do every other day with other people. Stephen Nolan

The corporation published the long-awaited list of what it pays its biggest stars at as part of its Royal Charter and in its annual report.

Broadcaster Nolan was at odds with fellow BBC presenter William Crawley ahead of the disclosure by the corporation.

Speaking on his Radio Ulster show, Mr Nolan - who dubs his programme "The biggest show in the country" - said he had turned down opportunity to talk about the revelations on Mr Crawley's Talkback show as he wanted as big an audience as possible to hear him.

Earlier Crawley tweeted: "Stephen Nolan has turned down an invitation from @BBCTalkback to be interviewed on today's programme about BBC salaries."

Nolan referred to the tweet during his show, telling his listeners: "What I actually said to William is, I think it is really important for the maximum amount of people to have a chance to listen to someone interviewing me, and I think it is therefore important not to go on the smaller phone-in show but to go on the show which has the bigger audience."

In response, Crawley tweeted: "I well understand that @StephenNolan would prefer to manage a story about himself on his own show rather than face me in an interview today."

In response to the Belfast Telegraph, which claimed Nolan was "joking" when he gave his justification for not going on Talkback, Nolan replied to the story link on Twitter: "Not joking. Important that I speak on the most listened to show in NI."

He told his listeners he would not have advance sight of the questions he would be asked on Thursday's show.

He said he was inviting an "independent" interviewer to ask the questions to ensure he was fully scrutinised and also promised to field callers' questions on his salary.

"I will be as accountable to all of you as we do every other day with other people," he said.

However, he later appeared on Radio Foyle to give his first interview.

The list of top BBC earners revealed that Nolan, who works seven days a week, is paid more than a number of well-known broadcasters and presenters, including Radio Four's Today presenter Nick Robinson (£250,000 to £299,000), newsreader and Antiques Roadshow presenter Fiona Bruce (£350,000 and £399,000), and the BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg (£200,000 to £249,000).

He was the only Northern Ireland-based BBC broadcaster on the list of those paid at least £150,000.

There were 96 people named on the list, a third of which are women.

It is the first time the information has been made public. The BBC has expressed fears that the revelations will spark pay claims among staff and also reveal to other broadcasters what it pays saying the list could become a "poachers' charter" leading to a bidding war.

The salaries of senior management is already published. The head of BBC Northern Ireland, Peter Johnston is paid £153,000 a year.

The DUP MP Gregory Campbell questioned the timing of the announcement, which the BBC branded as "nonsense".

It will be interesting to see how fair the reporting around that is. Stephen Nolan

Speaking on the BBC on Wednesday morning, Mr Campbell added: "The issue is one of openness and transparency.

"If there is a big event and the BBC sends hundreds or employees we are entitled to know if it is value for money.

"The BBC can not hide behind a veil of secrecy. They can't get on a soap box and now say they are committed to openness and transparency when they have been anything but in the last 20 or 30 years.

"The BBC need to go much further but it is progress."

People will forget that I’m working three jobs, seven days a week. Stephen Nolan

Mr Nolan’s has been the source of much discussion and speculation over the years. He has been notoriously tight-lipped on his wage packet, despite using his BBC Radio Ulster morning show to repeatedly blast politicians and public sector workers about their pay. He has often been challenged by Gregory Campbell on his own show to reveal his earnings.

He works seven days a week presenting nine radio shows as well as television commitments.

On Saturday he dodged the latest question about how much he is paid. A caller to his Radio 5 Live show, which he broadcasts from the BBC’s Manchester headquarters, asked him what the revelations would show.

Nolan laughed off the question and said he could not comment.

The presenter of BBC Radio Ulster’s so-called ‘Biggest Show In The County’ also last year dodged claims live on air he is paid £300,000 a year by the BBC.

He dismissed as “pure speculation” press claims he gets the equivalent of £800 a day to front his two television shows and his programmes on Radio Ulster and 5 Live.

It was revealed earlier this year Nolan is worth more than £1.7million after opening three new private companies to focus on TV production activities.

Last October, Nolan 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.”

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