Belfast Telegraph

Up to BBC to say what it pays my production company says Nolan amid earnings row

Stephen Nolan has said he would support the BBC publishing what it pays his production company as he faced down accusations of "hiding" his additional corporation earnings.

The BBC broadcaster earns between £400,000 and £449,000 as an individual, but the corporation also pays his company - Third Street Studios, of which he is the sole shareholder - for other shows he has created.

During an on-air showdown on his morning radio show, which saw Stormont Assembly member and former barrister Jim Allister assume the role of interviewer, Nolan was repeatedly asked to disclose the total amount he receives from licence fee-payers.

He insisted the information regarding his production company was commercially sensitive and it would be the BBC's decision to make it public.

But the broadcaster, who presents seven days a week across Radio 5 Live, Radio Ulster and BBC One Northern Ireland, said he would not oppose the information being made public, as long as details of what the corporation paid other production companies were also disclosed.

He told Mr Allister: "I am so not hiding behind the BBC that I am publicly saying to the BBC today that if they wish to publish any of the information you have asked me for, I will support them doing so - it is a management decision."

Earlier, he stated: "I will put up no opposition to them publishing that information and what would be fair then would be for the BBC to decide to publish the amounts that they give to every independent production company in Northern Ireland. If they decide to do that, that's for the management of the BBC to decide."

Mr Allister, the leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice party, claimed his stance was in contrast to his reputation as a "champion of transparency".

"You don't want your listeners to know how much you are really benefiting from the BBC yet you are the champion of transparency, you are the presenter and journalist who grills much more lowly paid people than yourself on all of these matters, but when you come to be asked the questions - How much of this money is coming from the BBC? - you hide behind the BBC, you run away, Mr Nolan. Why are you running away?"

Nolan said he was an "entrepreneur" who had set up a company trying to create new television ideas.

"Do you judge me badly by being a guy without a silver spoon in my mouth who is trying round the clock to build a business - that's what I am doing," he asked Mr Allister.

The MLA replied: "I think entrepreneurs are much needed in this society but when you have somebody who is a champion and makes himself a champion of transparency and is in receipt of public funds through BBC licence fee-payers then I think those licence fee- payers are entitled to know how much of their money is finding its way into the pockets of Stephen Nolan, and that's what you are avoiding telling us."

Nolan told the politician that he was unable to reveal the details.

"You are an intelligent man and you know the difference between 'want' to tell you and 'able' to tell you," he said.

"If the BBC want to disclose commercially what they pay into all the commercial production companies in Northern Ireland and throughout the UK I will put up no opposition and I will be treated the same.

"I can't sit here and decide BBC policy in front of you - I am not a manager."

Mr Allister said he was "disappointed" with the broadcaster's responses.

"I am commending you on your entrepreneurship but I am making the point as a self-publicised champion of transparency - who sets up your Nolan programme on that loud proclaim - that it is disappointing when it came to the opportunity of you being in the interviewee's chair that you hid behind the BBC in terms of bringing that complete transparency that you so readily expect from those you interview."

Nolan holds the record for winning the most Sony Radio Academy Golds, with seven to his name, and is the current Radio Academy Speech Broadcaster of the Year.

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.

The list of top BBC earners revealed that Nolan is paid more than a number of well-known broadcasters and presenters, including Radio 4's Today presenter Nick Robinson (£250,000-£299,000), newsreader and Antiques Roadshow presenter Fiona Bruce (£350,000-£399,000), and the BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg (£200,000-£249,000).

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

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