BBC Cuts Top Talent Bill by 4% After Jeremy Clarkson Ax

BBC Broadcasting House
Courtesy of Matt Cetti-Roberts/LNP/REX/Shutterstock

LONDON — Salaries of top talent at the BBC fell by 4% last year to around £200 million ($267 million) following the departure of major stars such as former “Top Gear” presenter Jeremy Clarkson.

At a hearing of the British Parliament’s committee on culture, media and sport, BBC Director-General Tony Hall revealed that the organization had shaved $2.6 million off the amount it spends on talent earning more than $670,242 in the 2014-15 financial year.

Additionally, the number of people earning between $670,242 and $6.7 million — the Beeb’s highest pay bracket — dropped from nine to seven in the last financial year, according to BBC figures.

Clarkson, who was sacked by the BBC in March 2015 after he allegedly punched and racially abused “Top Gear’s” former producer, was believed to earn around $2 million for the show. His fellow former co-presenters Richard Hammond and James May were also thought to be among the Beeb’s highest earners before they left.

The total bill for BBC’s top stars, who are likely to include talk-show host Graham Norton and soccer-roundup hit “Match of the Day” presenter Gary Lineker, dropped 25% from $11.9 million to $8.8 million in the same period. Radio 2 breakfast show DJ Chris Evans, the new face of “Top Gear,” is believed to be the pubcaster’s highest-paid presenter.

The BBC has previously resisted attempts to be more transparent about its top stars’ salaries, claiming it would encourage rival broadcasters to poach its talent. But as part of the government’s new white paper on the future of the corporation, which was unveiled in May, the BBC has agreed that any on-screen talent who earns more than Hall — who is paid $650,891 — will be named.

Hall told the parliamentary committee that the reduction in the BBC’s spending on big names was important.

“At the moment we band what we are spending on talent and it absolutely focuses us on what we are spending, and we are getting results out of that,” said Hall. “We are concerned if we begin to publish names alongside all these things it becomes a poachers’ charter. We want to make sure from the point of view of license-fee payers we are getting the talent they want to see on-screen and on the airwaves.”

Among the lower pay brackets, the number of people at the BBC earning between $334,913 and $670,242 increased from 34 to 38, an increase of 18% in the bracket’s total payroll, which rose to $17.94 million.

The number of employees earning between $133,833 and $200,896 also went up, from 134 to 152 people, who now collectively earn $24.6 million — a 15% increase for that pay bracket.