Belfast Telegraph

We should not measure a person by the amount of money that they earn

By Alf McCreary

If you are one of those people who felt a surge of moral indignation at the very large salaries paid to BBC personalities in a world where there is so much poverty and need, you might want to dwell on the words of Vittorio De Sica, the Italian film director and actor born some 116 years ago.

The leading member of the neo-realist movement: "Moral indignation is in most cases two per cent moral, 48 per cent indignation, and 50 per cent envy".

Personally, I do not envy the big BBC names - including our own Stephen Nolan - who are earning huge salaries, because nearly all are highly talented people.

They know only too well that they could be demoted with the swift brutality that is one of the hallmarks of the BBC.

This whole episode will provide interesting reading for people who are compelled to pay a licence fee to watch BBC television, whether they like it or not.

However there is a much deeper dimension raised by the BBC revelations. They beg the question, what is a human being worth?

I would be surprised if the subject of salaries did not form the basis for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pulpit sermons across the land in the coming days and weeks.

In a recent memoir, the retired cleric Rev John Pickering, formerly of Drumcree fame, bemoaned the modern lack of memorable preaching and defined a good sermon as "based on a Biblical text, well-researched and relevant to everyday life, and inspiring the congregation to faith".

You can take your pick of Biblical texts about the moral challenges posed by extreme wealth, and the BBC has provided much research about the top money it pays.

Without a doubt, this is relevant to the lives of many ordinary people who provide the money to enable the BBC to provide such high salaries.

It should also be noted that these payments go to a relatively few people and that the BBC is not well-known for paying high fees to a large number of its broadcasters.

When I worked regularly for BBC Radio Ulster's Sunday Sequence, some years ago, I was paid a pitiful fee, but I accepted their invitation because I enjoyed reviewing the morning papers and it gave me exposure as a freelance journalist.

However, the fees paid by the BBC to their top people belong to another stratosphere. Are Stephen Nolan, Chris Evans, Graham Norton and many others really worth the huge salaries they receive?

The same could be asked about top footballers.

For example, I read in today's paper that Chelsea football club are poised to offer Real Madrid £70m for the Spanish striker Alvaro Morata.

Only time will tell whether Senor Morata is worth that kind of money.

The same might be asked of other top sportsmen.

Is Rory McIlroy worth the huge fees he earns? Certainly, he is a first-class ambassador for his sport, for his charity and for his native Northern Ireland. Yet he has been struggling recently in a notoriously difficult game, and one person said to me last week that he was in danger of allowing himself to be sucked into media statements and speculation while he should be doing his best talking on the golf course.

Everyone in Northern Ireland, myself included, will be wishing him better progress during the Open championship taking place in England this weekend.

No one can blame gifted individuals for taking high salaries, or blame broadcasting organisations and other corporations for paying market rates to attract and retain the best talent.

The ugly truth about our world of obscene gaps between the rich, the struggling and the very poor, is that we have come to worship celebrity and are demanding that these superstars are available through television at the flick of a switch.

This financial pursuit of celebrity is not going to cease any time soon, but in the meantime we might reflect that a human being's real worth cannot be measured in money, but rather in the kind of person that he or she is.

That would also be the essentially Christian view, and I hope that clergy across the land will drive this point home - and sooner rather than later while the topic is still making the headlines.

Belfast Telegraph


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