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Last Updated: Friday, 15 July, 2005, 20:04 GMT 21:04 UK
Are BBC executive bonuses justified?
Television Centre
What do you think of the BBC's performance this year?

BBC executives accepted bonuses of up to 25% of their salaries last year according to the corporation's annual report.

Director general Mark Thompson declined his bonus, saying "it just wouldn't have felt right" but told other executives to accept theirs. Next year bonuses will be cut to 10%.

The annual report also covered financial and audience performance, highlighting a year of real creative achievement including Dr Who, The Apprentice and Strictly Come Dancing.

Was Mark Thompson right to waive his right to a bonus? Should the other executives have followed his example?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

I believe that a publicly run company like the BBC should have a bonus structure, but using our licensing fees to pay for this is wrong. The bonuses should be marked on how much the BBC has brought in from other sources of money. So long as our money is being used properly I have no issues with incentives.
Tim Balmford, Reading

I always thought the BBC to be above such blatant corporate greed
Daley, Sheffield
I've always been a big fan of the BBC and what they stand for. I'm disappointed with the news of these bonuses though - I always thought the BBC to be above such blatant corporate greed.
Daley, Sheffield

If the executives deserve a bonus then everybody at the BBC deserves one, as you are meant to be a team. The fairest way would be to take the pot of bonus money and pay every staff member the same sum, as a bonus. However if the 'ordinary' BBC staff don't deserve a bonu,s then the management certainly don't as they have failed to inspire their staff or have set them unreasonable targets.
Dave, Oxted, Surrey

How about turning the BBC board into a reality TV show? There'd be thousands of people queuing up to take part for nothing and an almost limitless supply of 'live' tedium to fill the digital channels. Result: massive cost savings. That's the kind of creative thinking that bonuses cannot buy.
Tim Dixon, Gateshead, UK

If BBC executives didn't accept such large bonuses perhaps more lower level staff could keep their jobs!
Connel Shaw, The Mall, London

Am I paying the bonuses of these people instead of receiving BBC web content?
David White, Stafford, England
I pay my licence fee, yet have had my service reduced with the removal of the BBC Get Writing website and the Cult website. Am I paying the bonuses of these people instead of receiving BBC web content?
David White, Stafford, England

No. Surely the money spent should be used to improve the quality of programming. I pay my licence so that I can be entertained. However, it was explained once before that the BBC employed ridiculously highly paid entertainers to justify the licence fee. Now I guess the rest of the money needs to be justified by giving the executives bonuses of more than the majority of their viewers earn in a year. It's not on.
dave, London, England

Not many people will refuse 25% of their salary, but why on earth was it offered? The BBC's TV programmes seem to consist, 90% of the time, of cheap-fix reality shows and repeats. Some stuff is well worth watching, but certainly not worth a 25% bonus.
Sue Hudson, London

Even a 10% bonus is crazy when you are laying off workers and attempting to cut costs elsewhere. It makes no sense to pay people a bonus for doing their job properly - that's what their basic salary is for.
Mark Grundon, Dorchester, Dorset

Most of these executives probably do a very difficult and highly intellectually challenging job in helping maintain the integrity of the greatest of British institutions. The real scandal over pay, which none of the comments here seem to mind, is the six-figure salaries paid to Eastenders actors, quiz show hosts and sport show hosts. Large salaries for such professions can never be justified.
Simon Flinn, Edinburgh

Bonuses tend to be expected rather than worked for
Fergus, London
One of the main problems with bonuses is that they are always awarded too soon; there is never a good analysis of whether they are deserved. They clearly do not work in their intended fashion in private sector management, where they bear little relationship to company performance. Bonuses also tend to be expected rather than worked for. Given the private sector experience, there is little hope that bonuses can work in the BBC.
Fergus, London

Restructuring and refocusing a large corporation is not a small job and not at all easy. Given an increased workload and results, those who have worked hard deserve rewarding. However, I think it is a little early and certainly morale zapping for them to be remunerated for their efforts at this point in time.
Phillip Holley, UK, London

No - will they be losing sleep about meeting rent/mortgage payments in case of redundancy? I think not.
Claire, Surrey

No, they are not justified. I believe that most of the executive board are paid more than the Tony Blair to be Prime Minister - how can that be justified?
Simon, London

If these executives have performed to the required levels, then bonuses are entirely justified
Howard, London
Bonuses are an incentive used throughout business, private and public sectors, to increase performance. If it is in their contracts, and these executives have performed to the required levels, then bonuses are entirely justified. What concerns me is the amount of money, a figure of 10% seems more suitable. Any executive vacancies at the BBC?
Howard, London

If all staff are eligible for bonuses if they provide exceptional performance then the directors should be eligible for bonuses too. However I doubt any cleaner or clerk has that opportunity.
Gareth Davies, Swansea, Wales

Considering the fact that everyone who owns a television is forced to pay the licence fee I find the very idea of bonuses insulting! Mark Thompson, you're a gentleman!
Ian, Lancashire

Whether it's justified or not makes very little difference. Surely we've learnt by now that 'executive bonuses' seem to get paid no matter how badly they've performed.
Peter Shields, Bradford

Pay everyone a defined salary
Chris Davison, Middlesbrough, UK
It is surely time that we got rid of the whole system of bonuses, everywhere, from the manual workers right up to the top. Pay everyone a defined salary and abolish all "perks" systems.
Chris Davison, Middlesbrough, UK

I used to work for a company that shocked the financial press with the enormous bonus given to the top man. Many of my colleagues lost their jobs, and I received a pay review less than the cost of living. Needless to say, my next move was to another employer where I am appreciated and rewarded properly.

What are they getting a bonus for - making thousands of people redundant? Well done BBC executives for making lots of people jobless and putting a further burden on the welfare system while living it up at the licence payers' expense. These people disgust me.
Chris, Reading, UK

Why should people be paid a bonus to do their job? You have wage for the job, if you do your job you get paid. If you don't do your job you get fired. If you believe your wage is too low get another job. If I simply repeated my previous work for 60% of my time at work, I would be fired as unproductive. There are too many repeats on the BBC.
Working Man

What are the bonuses for? As a viewer over the last few years all I've observed is a steady deterioration in the standard of both factual and arts programming and a great deal of repeats. Are they being paid for running the BBC down?
Sarah, London

It's always the way - to attract the best people to these kinds of jobs, you need the salaries they could command elsewhere. The question is whether a highly paid but talented individual offers better value than someone who is cheaper, but less competent for the role?
Bob McCow, Watford, UK

Why should someone get a bonus for doing their job?
V, Oxford, UK
The basic job of an executive is to maximise profits. Why should someone get a bonus for doing their job? I do a good job, but I don't get bonuses. I do what I am hired to do, and do it well.
V, Oxford, UK

The recent G8 coverage and big screens provided by the BBC have reminded of how proud we should all be of the BBC. It's a massive organisation that delivers quality time and time again. I think that the people at the top of the BBC should get paid more. This is because we have something in the BBC that the whole world admires. Pay them as much as they want to keep doing a great job.
Rich Hal, Somerset

So a few months ago, BBC staff went on strike in the face of massive job cuts. Now the executives give themselves a 25% bonus. Disgraceful.
Dave, Cardiff

BBC Directors should be rewarded for their excellent job in bringing news to the world. If you pay peanuts, you will get monkeys. Do you want monkeys to run the BBC?
Wayne Soon, Singapore

No bonuses are justified, they all get something called a salary in return for the best they can do for their employer. It is their job!
James St George, London, England

I find it hard to believe that a BBC executive can earn more in a year than I earn in fifteen years
Neil, London
I am a teacher at an Inner London FE college. I find it hard to believe that a BBC executive can earn more in a year than I earn in fifteen years. There is absolutely no justification for this and the fact that I pay for it out of my license fee adds insult to injury.
Neil, London

Funny how this happens right after the BBC gets its licence extended. Bonuses are for people that perform and the BBC has not hence the massive staffing cuts. If the BBC gets paid private sector perks then it should be treated like the private sector and be subject to competition. Time to get rid of licence fees. And how can they know next years bonuses will be 10%? They haven't done the work yet.
Ian Davies, London, England

If this is where licence payer's money goes, I will never buy a licence again. I only watch the news in the morning anyway.
Jennifer Hynes, Plymouth

It would be difficult to image a media company under greater public scrutiny, government pressure and partisan criticism than the BBC. There is, of course, the creative decision made for public entertainment. Then there is sober duty to keep the public reliably informed. There can be no question that these executives earn their keep; and part of their 'keep' is to insure that the BBC is truthful, fair, impartial and free to report the news of the world in the light of truth, not the darkness of propaganda. For an entire nation, indeed, the whole of the English speaking world, I think that is worth a lot of 'blood, sweat and tears'. Why begrudge a few pounds?
David James, Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Why is this bonus money not being invested in programming instead?
Jennifer, Glasgow, Scotland
If Michael Grade says "It is important that we attract and retain the best talent that we can", then why is the BBC trying to make redundant or sell off so many of its highly skilled and talented workers? Why is this bonus money not being invested in programming instead? I should mention I am a former employee, incidentally - depressed to discover that I am better able to provide a public service, get job satisfaction, and feel valued as an employee, outside the company I used to feel proud to work for.
Jennifer, Glasgow, Scotland

BBC executives are smart to make as much money as they can while the going is good. When the analogue signal is switched off, and the licence fee goes with it in favour of digital subscriptions, the BBC is likely to collapse into a black hole.
John, UK

These bonuses are equivalent to the cost of a house. Something most people cannot afford to buy. As a license payer I wouldn't mind the bonus payments if we were getting top talent which we aren't at present.
Dave Cameron, Newport Gwent

No one can really question the general good quality of the BBC product. However, reflecting upon the publicised need for the BBC to 'rationalise' and the inevitable real impact that it will have on jobs and lives, then these bonuses paid to executives appear to demonstrate an unfortunate level of greed. The bonuses maybe 'contractually payable', but the executives can follow Mark Thompson's example and not accept them.
Andrew Cowley, Forest Row, UK

These huge salaries are not justified, these people couldn't make that money elsewhere, there isn't that level of competition in British broadcasting, so the 'market rate' argument falls flat. It's greed.
John, London UK

This topic was suggested by Franziska Erbar, UK:
Was the BBC right to pay their executives bonuses of up to 25% of their salaries last year?

If the BBC Executives were appointed with an income based on salary and bonus they are entitled to the package. The issue here is what was the criteria set at to achieve such payments, and who has made the assessment? Look no further than football to see vastly overpaid staff, players and managers to get this into perspective.
Clive, Woking

Can I demand a 25% reduction in my license fee if I don't agree with the bonuses - or indeed with most of the recycled trash the BBC pumps into our homes these days? I would be willing to pay for the online services and radio, but you can keep the rest.
Craig, Falkirk

I'm just pleased I took the decision not to have a TV, so I'm not involved in paying these people. What's more I have more time to earn more and spend time with my family instead of lying on a couch every evening looking at a box.
Beryl W, Wakefield, UK

We're always hearing from highly paid directors that their salaries need to be high to attract persons of the right calibre to the job. This is the same argument advanced by the overpaid prima donnas who inhabit football's premier league. What would happen if everyone took the same attitude? Hyper inflation of course. As a license payer I strongly object to monies being misspent in this way. Put it into programming instead!
Dave, England

Come on, it doesn't take Einstein to say "Let's revamp Doctor Who". As a research scientist being paid a salary inevitably much smaller than the bonuses they received, I can't possibly imagine what they do that justifies such a large amount of money.
Darren, Reading

The bonuses are not justified. The BBC gets its licence fees to provide a service to us, the licence payer. It should not go to executives who get paid more than the majority of licence payers will ever get. Kudos to Mark Thompson for declining his bonus, but did he do it just to avoid looking bad?
Graham Flett, Edinburgh

It is absolutely criminal that bonuses, let alone basic salaries of the level publicised are being paid, when OAPs who receive a meagre state pension have to pay an enormous licence fee.
Barry, Stone, UK

Yes. They've inherited an ocean liner and have changed course. It will take time for the new direction to take effect, but the management team has been professional and effective in its role. Recruiting external managers to do this role would have cost the BBC much more money and could scarcely have been more effective.
Andy Millward, Broxbourne, UK

All right for some. If I had a bonus of 25% of my salary I'd still be paying tax on it and still be needing my second job.
Phil, UK

The real culprits are the managing board which allowed this to take place
Larry Nelson, Moreno Valley, California, USA
Don't blame the executives for accepting a bonus that appears to be excessive. The real culprits are the managing board which allowed this to take place.
Larry Nelson, Moreno Valley, California, USA

In a properly run commercial company, any bonuses would be paid from the gross annual profit. The BBC is not a commercial company. Bonuses should not even come into the equation, if only because there is no way to measure performance because we can't refuse to pay our TV licences and go elsewhere if the BBC's "performance" has been bad.
Steve, Bristol, UK

Of course they are justified. And they should take them. If you had an employment contract which gave you that as integral bonus part of your salary package, then I bet you would not "waive" it!
Al, Glasgow, UK

While these bonuses do seem excessive, especially with regard to the job losses, I can't be the only one tired of the endless criticisms of the BBC. Regardless of any 'scandal', the fact remains that the BBC continues to produce most of the best programmes on British television, has, in my opinion, by far the best news website on the internet and an excellent general website, and wide-ranging, informative, diverse and entertaining radio. Well worth the licence fee.
Matt, Portsmouth, UK

If BBC doesn't offer these people lucrative salaries and supplements, someone else will
Chris, USA
If the news of the bonuses does not come with a specific, itemized explanation of what they are being rewarded for, it should be considered out of context and judgment should not be passed. Also, executive bonuses absolutely must remain competitive with the rest of the market because I would be willing to bet a sizable sum that there are fewer qualified broadcasting executives than there are positions for them, so the bottom line is, if BBC doesn't offer these people lucrative salaries and supplements, someone else will. Like it or not the way large organizations work is that a qualified general is more important to the army than skilled soldiers, an effective superintendent more important than good teachers, an organized foreman more than dedicated workers, and good executives more than a few thousand employees.
Chris, USA

These bosses do not deserve any bonus. The BBC throws old programmes at us all year round and makes us pay for the box that allows us to connect to the other BBC TV channels. We should be given all BBC stations because we pay their licence fees, then and only then should the bosses get a bonus.
W P Derbyshire, London, UK

If you could have got as good people to do as well without paying bonuses, then the bonuses weren't needed. If senior media execs would get this elsewhere, then the bonuses were needed. Nobody 'deserves' six figure salaries and five figure bonuses - but quite a few people earn them by having rare skills and talents that are in high demand. Nurses obviously deserve more money than media execs, but there are half a million people who can nurse, and only a few dozen who can run the BBC.
Mike Richmond, Guildford, England

There is nothing wrong with getting bonuses. Let's face it we'd all like to have them and wouldn't say no to them if offered. Besides the BBC is excellent value for money. You actually pay more for the commercial stations via buying advertised goods and services!
David Ashley, UK

No, the executives shouldn't get bonuses. What are they paid their salaries for?
Mike, London

I prefer to view the package as 80% salary and 20% bonus, so a failure to meet targets is punished by loss of earnings and the execs in this case have simply received their full pay this year. Whether they are paid too much is another question.
David, London

It's obscene that people can get paid that much public money
Dylan, Sheffield
Why would you need a bonus when your wage is over a quarter of a million pounds a year anyway? It's obscene that people can get paid that much public money.
Dylan, Sheffield

No public employees should be paid bonuses. If the directors of a PLC are too generous to themselves, the shareholders can do something about it. Licence fee payers don't have that option.
Julian Moss, Cockermouth, UK

Absolutely not! There should be no bonuses in a 'non-profit' public funded company. What is the bonus based on for goodness sake? Productivity?
Gerard, Bristol, UK

There should be bonuses for the people who actually produce the programmes on the BBC. If a show does well, like "The Picture of Britain" then the film makers should be generously rewarded. Directors shouldn't be able to write their own bonus cheques.
Shauna Chapman, Hertford, England

I just don't get the way British corporations are run. Announce to several thousand loyal employees that they're out of a job - and then pay yourself a fortune plus bonus for the luxury of being the ones doing the telling.
Colin Barrett, Milton Keynes, UK

How much of MY licence fee has gone into paying for the bonuses?
Rakesh, Warwickshire
I think a bonus is justified but how do they come to a figure of 25%? I would like some transparency please. Just how much of MY licence fee has gone into paying for the bonuses?
Rakesh, Warwickshire

Mark Thompson has every right to waive his bonus. The other directors have every right to accept theirs. The issue is the total value of their remuneration. The salary figures quoted seem high, but that is because most of us don't earn such large salaries as we don't run large corporations. I would be interested to see how they compare with other media directors and senior managers.
Ralph, Surrey

A six-figure wage shouldn't warrant a five-figure bonus, especially after thousands of job losses.
Laurie, Herts, UK

Mark Thompson was right to waive his bonus. However, all the others should have too.
Martyn, London

I know plenty of people in certain industries whose basic salary is quite low, but is made up by large bonuses in good years, whereby they carry some of the risk of a bad year with their employer but reap the rewards of a good year. A bonus as high as 25% usually goes together with strong performance requirements - so what were the measures for these executives? Ratings?
Katherine, London

Surely the 'bonus' these top execs get is their very high wages
Kiltie Chisholm, Staffs, UK
Surely the 'bonus' these top execs get is their very high wages. They are already being paid top whack for their 'creative input' so how bonuses of this magnitude can be justified is beyond me.
Kiltie Chisholm, Staffs, UK

What this means is that there is additional funds which could be used to create additional programming. This is a serious slap in the face to the general public who pay an inflated sum - under threat of incarceration - only to have it end up in some fat cat's pocket.
Salik Rafiq, Blackburn

Once again we see "one rule for us, one rule for them" in action. At the salaries that these 'executives' are on, the need for bonuses at all is questionable. As someone who also works in the public sector I find their salaries ridiculous anyway.
John, London

Mark Thompson was right to waive his bonus. I don't pay my TV licence for BBC directors to line their pockets! I'm glad to see the bonuses being reduced next year - can we see them disappear altogether please?
Ali, UK

No, if the BBC can afford to pay 25% bonuses then they can cut my TV licence fee.
Edward Hutton, Brentwood, Essex

Come on, if my boss offered it to me I'd take it
Vik, UK
I certainly don't think that BBC execs deserved a 25% bonus but come on, if my boss offered it to me I'd take it and I suspect most others would too.
Vik, UK

So this is why there were so many cut backs!? Explains everything doesn't it!
Lou, Birmingham, UK

Why are the given bonuses for doing their jobs? Who pays for these bonuses? Licence payers like me. I'd rather the BBC spent my money on providing quality programmes, as per its remit, rather than slapping itself on the back.
Ollie, Leeds, UK

At the end of the day, the BBC executives are only reflecting the current trend of large corporations. The business I used to work for spent a long period of financial restructuring which meant thousands of job cuts. The directors received bonuses, presumably based on the success of the restructuring. Why should the BBC be different?
Paul Metcalfe, Chorley UK

So next year they'll only get a 10% bonus? What's the odds on their salaries being increased so they'll match the 25% bonuses this year anyway?
Al, W'Ton, UK

I fail to see how they can possibly be justified
Ellie, Edinburgh, UK
Whilst I believe the BBC in general does an excellent job exactly what marvellous things have all these Execs done to justify these bonuses? I haven't noticed the quality of programming in general going up and viewing figures are apparently down, I fail to see how they can possibly be justified (except to the genius whose idea it was to bring back Dr Who - he/she deserves 50% and a medal).
Ellie, Edinburgh, UK

Look at the programs the BBC is boasting about: Dr Who, whilst excellent is basically a 40-year-old show they've revamped. The apprentice is just a direct re-make of a US show and Strictly Come Dancing has been already been milked for all its worth and then some - we've had two series in a year, plus Strictly Dance Fever and Strictly African Dancing. I predict strictly Morris dancing in a month or two. Can we please have some new programmes that aren't a rip off of old stuff?
Peter, Nottingham

The Director General should be given a pat on his back for not having the bonus, though he worked extremely hard to run this flagship. However, the other executives are perfectly entitled to keep their bonuses as they gave every iota of creative inspiration to the BBC. Well they have families to feed and educate, so one has to be very careful before making generalisations. If they had healthy bank accounts, they would certainly have followed suit but this should in no way reflect on their individual character.
Pancha Chandra, Brussels, Belgium

Too right the bonuses should be waived! At the very least significantly reduced to a single figure percentage. In a year of (more) cutbacks, more repeats and, undoubtedly, a further loss of viewers to the independents the small number of highlights do not justify such sizable top-ups. If there's that much spare cash it should be used constructively within the infrastructure or given to the performers benevolent funds.
Ian C, Midlands, UK

I think the past 12 months has been good for the BBC, with some thoroughly enjoyable programming keeping us entertained. If the bonus was on offer I know that most people posting their comments here wouldn't turn it down.
Kyle, Berkshire

Senior managers at the BBC, or any company for that matter, ought to know that it is very bad for employee morale when a company cuts thousands of jobs to "save money" and then 6 months later awards themselves large bonuses. If the Director General doesn't think it felt right to take his bonus, then why were the bonuses awarded in the first place? Bad public relations and bad business all round.
Jonathan Michaud, Baltimore, MD, USA (ex-UK)

The bonuses are highly deserved. If the BBC doesn't pay its executives high salaries, they would recruit entirely the wrong calibre of staff. The risks of that are incalculable; whole policies might not be strategic enough. It's essentially that proper executive control is maintained when you're replacing actual staff with a long-term vision.
Katie, Midlands, UK

BBC defends executives' bonuses
12 Jul 05 |  TV and Radio


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