Page last updated at 10:12 GMT, Monday, 2 June 2008 11:12 UK

At-a-glance: BBC star salaries report

Graham Norton
Star salaries like Graham Norton's were looked at

The amount the BBC pays stars such as Jonathan Ross is not distorting the market for talent, an independent review has found.

The BBC Trust commissioned the review after salary details were leaked last year, including a three-year deal for Jonathan Ross reportedly worth 18m.


TV and radio personalities are "special people doing special jobs", even if certain members of the audience do not like them.

The popularity of big name presenters means there is fierce competition to secure their services, and this can lead to "very high financial rewards" both from the BBC and its competitors.

The independent report says that the BBC's biggest names make up "an increasingly large proportion" of the schedules.

However, it notes that programmes like The One Show make specific efforts to "introduce new or less familiar performers".

The trust agrees that the BBC should not rely on a "small pool of established names" and must develop new talent and new formats.

It adds that a BBC without big name talent, top sports or other rights is possible, "but it would be a very different BBC to the one the audience knows and values".


The report does not disclose individual salaries. However, it says that the investment in on-air talent in 2006-2007 was 204 million.

The annual spending on the BBC's top 50 names "seems to be growing significantly faster" than the average - although these presenters have spent 15 per cent more time on air than last year.

Spending is highest in TV entertainment and comedy, network radio and news.

There was not enough information to decide whether the BBC has made a "separate and significant" contribution to talent fee inflation over the last five to eight years - but inflation in BBC salaries has fallen from peaks in 2001-2002 and 2003-2004.

The independent report adds that "the BBC is taking a generally harder line" on pay rises, which has led to "some high-profile exits".


The BBC generally does not pay above the market rate for on-air talent and, in some cases on television, pays less than other broadcasters.

But on radio, a small number of BBC staff are paid much more than their colleagues on commercial stations. These fees may reflect that radio personalities could earn more if they jumped to television.

The independent report says that some people "involved in supplying talent and programming to the BBC" suggest that the corporation "does not always recognise the strength of its own bargaining position".

It adds that the BBC's approval processes for larger deals "might benefit from more internal challenge" and that a "specific review" of news, entertainment and comedy could be beneficial.

The trust also suggests some changes to how deals with top names are approached.

It says the BBC should make more use of independent research, and that it should leverage its position to drive harder bargains. The trust also wants the BBC to "find ways to demonstrate its efforts to achieve the best deals more openly to the public".


Overall the trust is satisfied that the BBC is working hard to deliver quality programmes that stand out from the crowd and represent value for money to all licence fee payers.

But the issues raised are of continuing interest to the trust. We will keep the pressure up so the best deals are reached on behalf of all licence fee payers and report again on the results of our review which will take place a year from now. "


"Talent is the lifeblood of the BBC," begins the BBC's response to the review.

The corporation says talent is not just high-profile presenters like Jonathan Ross and Terry Wogan, but "the extra in the crowd scene" or "the rank and file musician in the BBC Symphony Orchestra".

Therefore, it is "vital for the BBC to be a place that talent wants to work".

It welcomes the independent report - and in particular the assertion that the BBC has done well in controlling inflation in stars' salaries.

The BBC says that fees paid to its radio personalities should not be compared solely with commercial radio networks. Many key radio performers "have careers in TV and film, print journalism and the wider music business," it notes.

There are also "a number of examples where BBC radio performers and television talent have stayed at the BBC despite receiving more lucrative offers elsewhere because of the range of creative opportunities we can offer and the unique nature of BBC output."

The BBC agrees with the report's authors that it should consider more than the cost per viewer or listener per hour when calculating value for money in a performer's salary.

The corporation also wants access to more detailed information about salaries across the industry - but it "notes the difficulty that both the BBC and Oliver and Ohlbaum experienced in persuading other broadcasters to engage in talent benchmarking".

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13 Jun 07 |  Entertainment
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02 Dec 06 |  Entertainment
BBC defends Ross pay and conduct
07 Jul 06 |  Entertainment
BBC defends 'top talent' salaries
11 Jul 06 |  Entertainment


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