Stephen Nolan takes £75,000 pay cut, but he’s still BBC NI’s top earner
Broadcaster Stephen Nolan saw his salary slashed by around £75,000 last year — but he still takes home almost twice as much as his boss at BBC Northern Ireland.
The Radio Ulster presenter’s pay of between £325,000 and £329,999 emerged as the BBC released its annual report of correspondents and presenters who earned more than £150,000 between April 2018 and March 2019.
But the fall in his wages — from between £400,000 and £409,999 the previous year — means Nolan (46), who also has shows on Radio 5 Live, is no longer in the public broadcaster’s top 10 high earners, dropping to 13th place.
The reduction in the star’s salary was mainly down to the fact he presented 40 fewer radio and TV programmes this year compared to the previous year.
Nolan no longer presents Question Time Extra Time on BBC Radio 5 Live on Thursday nights, which accounts for 30 of the programmes.
Details of his earnings through programmes commissioned for the BBC from his independent production company are not, however, included in the figure.
By contrast, BBC Northern Ireland director Peter Johnston saw his salary rise over the last 12 months, soaring from between £150,000 and £159,999 last year to between £175,000 and £179,999 in 2018/19.
Nolan and Johnston are the only two figures working mainly in BBC Northern Ireland whose wages were high enough to be revealed in the list of star salaries.
The report also states that Nolan presented 210 programmes on BBC Radio Ulster, 10 editions of the television show Nolan Live, and 120 programmes on BBC Radio 5 Live.
Under the terms of the BBC’s charter, it has to publish the details of those who earn more than £150,000 a year from the licence fee. Details about the pay of stars working on programmes for BBC Studios, the corporation’s commercial arm, are not included in the figures, nor are payments stars receive from independent production companies.
In response to questions from the Belfast Telegraph, the BBC said Nolan’s “change in salary reflects the number of BBC-produced programmes Stephen has presented during this financial period, accounting for BBC Radio Ulster’s The Nolan Show on weekday mornings, BBC Radio 5 Live’s Stephen Nolan programme on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings and BBC One Northern Ireland’s Nolan Live”.
It added that he “no longer presents BBC Radio 5 Live’s Question Time Extra Time on BBC Radio 5 Live on Thursday evenings and there were fewer episodes of Nolan Live recorded during this time”. Defending Nolan’s earnings, the BBC said he “is extremely popular with our audiences and is a multi-award-winning presenter”.
“Stephen presents up to eight radio programmes each week across BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio 5 Live,” it added.
“According to the latest RAJAR figures his BBC Radio Ulster programme remains the most listened-to in Northern Ireland.
“Stephen also presents the BBC Northern Ireland television series Nolan Live, which is one of the most watched programmes on BBC One Northern Ireland, and presents three late-night shows each week on BBC Radio 5 Live.
“Now with the BBC for 15 years, Stephen holds the record for winning the most Sony Radio Academy/ARIA Golds. He is also a two-time recipient of the Nick Clarke Award and has won Royal Television Society awards two years in a row for his television work.”
Asked why Nolan’s earnings from his independent production company for programmes commissioned by the BBC are not included in the figure, the BBC said it doesn’t “have that data”.
“The BBC’s charter requires us to set out the names of individuals paid more than £150,000 from the licence fee working under a contract for services,” it said. “Any money paid by independent production companies is not counted as we don’t have that data.”
The BBC was asked if it was worried about negative publicity over the salaries being paid to top earners in the context of its recent decision to scrap free TV licences for around 3.7m pensioners. It said "around 95% of the money we control goes on content and services".
“Overall, the cost of top talent in particular is a tiny fraction of what the BBC spends each year – around 0.5%," said a spokesman.
"Cutting presenter pay would only account for a fraction of the £745m-a-year cost of free TV licences for all over 75s.
"Even if we stopped working with every presenter on today’s list and replaced them with presenters paid less than £150k, we would only save around £20m. And it would leave a worse BBC for everyone as well.”
Sports presenter Gary Lineker is still the corporation’s top talent earner overall for the second year in a row with a salary of £1,750,000 to £1,754,999.
Claudia Winkleman, Vanessa Feltz and Zoe Ball also featured among the highest earning talent; it’s the first time since presenter salaries were disclosed in 2017 that women have made the top 10. The corporation’s director-general Tony Hall said it had “turned a corner on gender pay”.