The BBC has responded to criticism from The Sun over payments made to MPs by saying: “We know that deep down Sun journalists like the BBC”.
The Sun reported yesterday that the BBC has paid £200,000 in fees to MPs over the last five years.
Fees range from £1,500 go on BBC One comedy show Have I Got News For You to £150 for appearing on Radio 4 panel show Any Questions.
The Sun said yesterday in a leader column: “MPs aren’t celebrities. They are elected to represent voters and paid generous salaries from public funds to do it.
“Why should they bump those up with bungs from another publicly-funded body?”
The BBC said in a statement yesterday afternoon: “Today the Sun attacked the 'scandal' of the BBC paying 'greedy' MPs to appear on some of our shows (when they’re not appearing just in their party political capacity). It described these payments as a splurge of public money and 'Beeb’s bungs'.
“It makes a neat headline (it’s a story run by papers on a regular cycle) but there’s a few quick things we wanted to point out.
"1. MPs are only paid for certain programmes – we don’t pay for them to appear on programmes like The Andrew Marr Show, Today or Daily Politics, when they’re generally representing their party and explaining or promoting policies. But we may pay if they’re presenting a documentary, or appearing on shows like Have I Got News For You or This Week where they’re going beyond their usual role as an MP. We could always have an empty seat though.
"2. We’re sure Sun readers love hearing from MPs – and quite right too – given it too pays MPs to write for it.
"3. We’re glad the Sun enjoys holding the BBC to account and challenging us – it keeps us on our toes and makes sure the licence fee is well spent. We know that deep down Sun journalists like the BBC as well – that’s why they’re happy to be paid to contribute to some of our programmes as well.
"Oh, and given the paper also says we’ve 'splashed out' on a new senior job, it’s worth saying we’ve cut the number of senior managers and their paybill by a third since 2009. But when we’re looking at making a major change, like transforming our in-house production, it does need someone with the right skills and experience in charge.”
Last year Press Gazette analysed Parliament’s Register of Members’ Interests to compare payments by all news organisations to MPs.
This found that the BBC paid £20,000 to MPs in the first four months of the year, more than the combined totals of payments made to MPs by all UK national newspapers.