Page last updated at 16:19 GMT, Saturday, 29 November 2008

Big pay deals 'unlikely' at BBC

Jonathan Ross
The BBC has never confirmed Ross's rumoured 6m-a-year pay deal

Multi-million pound pay deals for the BBC's biggest stars are "extremely unlikely" in the future, the controller of BBC One, Jay Hunt, has said.

She told the Daily Telegraph she could not see herself agreeing to the sort of contracts that see Jonathan Ross earn a reported 6m per year.

"My reputation in this industry... is as one of the stingiest women in television," she said.

Hunt added that Ross's return to TV presented "a challenge" to the BBC.

The broadcaster has been suspended without pay for 12 weeks in the light of the crude phone calls he and Russell Brand made to the actor Andrew Sachs.

Hunt said she had spoken to Ross several times since the calls were broadcast and that he is "hugely contrite".

Jay Hunt
Jay Hunt joined the BBC in 1989 and became controller of BBC One in May
"I think he will come back as a slightly different sort of individual," she said.

"The challenge now is how we bring Jonathan back to BBC One and give him support and the platform to re-establish that relationship with audiences."

She refused to comment on the broadcaster's pay - the BBC has never confirmed the 6m-a-year figure - but said such deals were unlikely in the future.

"I genuinely think the climate around those sorts of deals has changed," she said.

"In talent negotiations generally, we're in a better position than we've been for quite a long time, because the world is a different place."

Her comments echo remarks made by BBC director general Mark Thompson earlier this month.

He told BBC One's Andrew Marr programme that the public wanted the "best talent" but, owing to the economic climate, the corporation was moving towards a period of "retrenchment".

"It is probably the case that we will be able to secure the best entertainment talent for less than we have been able to do in the last few years," he added.

Licence fee

The discussion of star salaries comes as an opinion poll suggests that six in 10 people think the BBC's licence fee is "a rip off".

Only 10% of the 2,062 adults interviewed by YouGov for The People newspaper answered "yes" when asked whether the 139.50 television licence was good value for money.

A further 24% chose the answer "just about, but they could do a bit more", but 64% said "no, it's a rip off".

A BBC spokeswoman said: "In-depth research has shown us a very different picture.

"Audiences are telling us that they are really enjoying our shows at the moment, everything from Strictly Come Dancing to Terry Wogan and Children In Need.

"We do realise we have to work very hard to constantly demonstrate that we are using licence payers' money wisely."

In an Ipsos Mori survey of more than 4,500 people published in June this year, more than half of respondents gave the BBC a rating of eight out of 10 or higher.

The cost of the licence fee is set by the government. It is free for people over 75 and half-price for those registered blind.

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