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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 January 2008, 12:49 GMT
BBC 'should reveal star salaries'
Jonathan Ross
Jonathan Ross reportedly signed a three-year deal worth 18 million
The BBC has been wrong in failing to disclose the sizes of its stars' salaries, a committee of MPs has said.

The House of Commons culture select committee said there should be more transparency over how much the corporation pays its biggest names.

The BBC argued it could be a breach of confidence to do so and cited "commercial prejudice" as a reason for maintaining secrecy.

MPs also wanted to know how much the planned Freesat service would cost.

It was "not reasonable" to licence fee-payers to leave uncertainties over the cost of the project, they added.

Freesat, a joint venture with ITV, is due to offer about 200 subscription-free channels through a satellite dish when it launches in the spring.

It will cost 180 to buy the necessary equipment for a service intended as a free-to-air alternative to Sky's digital satellite platform, cable television and the Freeview digital terrestrial system.

A satellite dish
Freesat would be an alternative to Sky, cable companies and Freeview
Given that Freesat had been approved by the BBC Trust on the basis that it was a good use of income from the licence fee, it was "not reasonable to withhold information" about how much the service would cost, MPs said.

Members of the committee also expressed concern that the BBC was ready to consider publishing details of the pay of non-celebrity staff, albeit in the form of broad salary bands, when it refused to release the wages of "talent".

"It is not immediately clear to us why the BBC Trust takes different views on transparency of employee costs and on transparency of talent costs," MPs said.

And they could not understand "why grouping of payments in bands for one, but not the other, presents data-protection or breach-of-confidence issues", as the BBC had insisted.

A BBC Trust spokesman said: "In its first year, the BBC Trust has implemented many changes to improve transparency and accountability at the BBC, including service licences, full explanations for decisions relating to new services and periods of public consultation.

"We note the committee's report about some specific issues and will consider its recommendations when preparing this year's annual report."

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