Presenter John Humphrys has said he does not deserve his six-figure salary when compared to a firefighter on the scene at Grenfell Tower as he claims he would do his job for less money.
His comments came as he was named the second highest paid journalist on the BBC’s list of top earning staff members, behind only Jeremy Vine, with a yearly pay packet of between £600,000 and £650,000.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Media Show after the figures were released yesterday, the Today programme presenter said he felt he did provide a useful service within the media market.
Asked if he felt he was worth the hefty pay cheque, the 73-year-old said: “What do I do? On paper, absolutely nothing that justifies that huge amount of money.
“If you compare me with lots of other people – a doctor who saves a child’s life, a nurse who comforts a dying person, or a fireman who rushes into Grenfell Tower – then of course you could argue that compared with that sort of thing I’m not worth twopence halfpenny.
“However, we operate in a market place. I think I provide a fairly useful service. Somebody has to do the job of trying to hold power to account and speak the truth to power and all that stuff.”
Humphrys, who also hosts BBC 2 quiz show Mastermind, began working for the broadcaster 50 years ago on a yearly £2,000 salary.
He said he would “of course” do his job for less money and that his last job offer outside the BBC was “about eight years ago” for “about double what I was then earning” but he turned it down.
Asked why, Humphrys said: “Corny answer, forgive me: I love the BBC.”
Speaking of the publicly-funded organisation’s decision to unveil the figures – which were topped by Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans’ £2m+ sum – Humphrys agreed that it was the right thing to do.
“I’ve always thought that,” he said. “In fact I have offered many, many times over the years to reveal what I was earning and the BBC always took the view… that I shouldn’t do that. That they didn’t want me to do that.
He said the corporation had told him releasing his salary might end up “distorting the market place”.
Humphrys added: “As an individual, as opposed to a BBC corporate person, I am perfectly happy that people should know what I earn and to be honest I am terribly interested in seeing the reaction.
“It may be that I am absolutely stunned and pack it all in next Thursday week and say ‘that’s it, I’m full of shame,’ but let’s see what happens.”
One thing Humphrys did not agree with, however, was the revelation than some of his “brilliant” female Today show colleagues, such as Sarah Montague and Mishal Husain, did not make the top 10 list.
He said: “I’m not happy with that…I don’t think that is right.”
Covering the salaries story on his own Radio 2 show, Jeremy Vine was asked by a listener if he was “embarrassed” to pick up his pay cheque.
The journalist replied: “I just feel very lucky every day,” before the listener asked: “Do you think you’re overpaid?”
Vine said: “I don’t really want to answer that because I don’t think it’s the moment for me.”
The listener went on to say he thought all BBC staff were “grossly overpaid”.