BBC chief Tony Hall has warned that comparing pay “is not straightforward” as the broadcaster prepares to publish the salaries of stars earning over £150,000 – of which two thirds are men.
The corporation is revealing for the first time its talent list of 96 of the biggest high-earners.
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Reporting on Radio 4 this morning media editor Amol Rajan said that people at the BBC get paid less than at other broadcasters but may do so because “their public profile enables the to earn more elsewhere”. He said the feeling in the media industry was that the salary revelations will provide “inflationary” because “people will ask for more money”.
Only one third of the list of talent earning over £150,000 are women.
“Is that where we want to be? No,” BBC director-general Lord Hall told staff in an internal video message.
He admitted that the “disclosures highlight… the need to go further and faster on issues of gender and diversity” but said that the corporation was “pushing….faster than any other major broadcaster”.
With stars being able to see what their colleagues earn for the first time when the annual report is published on Wednesday, Lord Hall added “a word of warning”.
The pay packets of Match Of The Day presenter Gary Lineker, chat show host Graham Norton and newsreader and Antiques Roadshow presenter Fiona Bruce are expected to be disclosed.
Leading journalists such as Andrew Marr, John Humphrys and political editor Laura Kuenssberg are also expected to be on the list.
“You will of course draw your own conclusions … But … comparing people’s pay is not straightforward,” Lord Hall said.
“Very few do precisely the same thing – people working at the same show may have other – or different – commitments.”
He acknowledged the salaries are to “lots of people… large sums”.
But he defended the pay packets, saying “we need to employ the very best – stars, great presenters, writers, actors, correspondents …
“We’re in a market that is now even more competitive than ever. A decade ago it might have been just ITV or Sky or commercial radio. But now it’s Netflix, Amazon or Apple.”
He said that the BBC “always try to pay people at a discount to the market” and are “not afraid to walk away if money becomes an issue”.
The BBC says the £150,000 salaries represent “less than a quarter of 1%” of its talent contracts last year.
Its bill for top talent was down by 10% year on year and a quarter over the last five years, Lord Hall said.
The BBC boss told staff that it had fought against the disclosures in the negotiations about its royal charter, as it would be inflationary and a “poachers’ charter”.
“But in the end the Government insisted,” he said.
He said that he was “more confident than ever about the future of this great organisation” highlighting everything from the snakes and iguanas scene on Planet Earth II to The Archers domestic abuse storyline and Ed Balls’ Gangnam Style dance on Strictly Come Dancing.
The BBC, which lost the Great British Bake Off last year, said its overall talent bill was down by more than £4 million to below £194 million and its bill for senior managers has reduced from £78.5 million in 2009 to £42.2 million.
Earlier this year, watchdog Ofcom became the first independent, external regulator of the BBC.
The BBC receives about £3.7 billion every year from the TV licence fee and in April the fee increased for the first time since 2010, to £147 from £145.50.
Names are expected to be listed in bands in the areas in which staff work, such as news, sport and radio.