BBC chiefs to cut salaries

On-screen talent's earnings to be published

LONDON — The BBC, long criticized for its alleged profligacy, appears to be embracing Blighty’s new age of austerity.

Last week, the U.K.’s recently elected coalition government announced huge cuts to public services and welfare payments.

Now the BBC Trust, which regulates the pubcaster in the interests of local audiences, has revealed that its most senior directors are to hand back a month’s pay for each of the next two years.

That will mean a pay cut of 8.3% for director-general Mark Thompson, bringing his basic remuneration down to £609,000 ($919,000), hardly big bucks compared with Hollywood chiefs’ pay checks or the earnings of News Corp. topper James Murdoch.

“The BBC can’t be spared the challenges being faced by the rest of the public sector,” chairman Michael Lyons, whose pay also will be cut, told a Voice of the Listener and Viewer seminar Wednesday.

He said the BBC must also disclose which of its TV and radio talents are paid the highest fees.

“The BBC should be clearer about who the highest paid individuals are, both on screen and off. We recognize this is not a simple process,” Lyons said.

“Often stars work for independent producers and the terms of trade currently mean we can’t have sight of their fees.

“Some existing BBC contracts have confidentiality clauses that would prevent immediate publication of salaries.

“But we are challenging the director-general to work urgently on a plan to deliver greater transparency about who is at the top end of the talent pay scale.

“The trust is giving a clear signal that it wants to see change in this area.”

Lyons’ announcement is seen in some quarters as caving in to pressure from BBC rivals and the government, which wanted to abolish the BBC Trust.