U.K. broadcaster BBC has garnered criticism for the millions paid in salaries to high profile on-air talent such as ex-soccer player and current sport pundit Gary Lineker.
Lineker, who hosts popular soccer program “Match of the Day,” and fronts the BBC’s FA Cup and “Sports Personality of the Year” coverage, earned £1.75 million ($2.25 million) during the 2019/2020 financial year, according to the BBC annual report, which was released Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, Lineker took a 23% pay cut and signed a new contract that will keep him at the corporation until 2025.
Referring to the annual report, Julian Knight, member of parliament and committee chair for the government’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said, “Despite Gary Lineker’s pay cut, when millions of pensioners are having to find extra cash to pay for the BBC and services they depend on, it’s concerning to see not only has the bill for on-air talent grown by more than £1 million [$1.28 million] but that more than 100 senior executives are paid over £150,000 [$193,091] a year — in many cases considerably more than that.”
“We will continue to press the BBC on how well the license fee payer is served as part of our ongoing inquiry into the role of public service broadcasting in this digital age,” Knight added. “Whether people believe they get value for money is a central issue given the inroads into viewing habits by online streaming services such as Netflix which has given evidence to the Committee today.”
Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, BBC director general Tim Davie said, “The BBC are always trying to get as much value as possible when we’re doing these contract negotiations, but I think most people recognize that we are in markets, we are not in a closed world and we will invest in very limited situations in particular markets to ensure that we get the best talent.”
Hosts Graham Norton and Andrew Marr earned $940,000 and $470,000, respectively, last year. “I am expecting people to come to the BBC at a significant discount to what they could get in the open market,” said Davie. The director general said that if salaries of all the talent and executives earning more than £150,000 ($193,091) were to be brought down, the savings would still only be in “single digit millions.”
“I see the value delivered by a small group of exceptional broadcasters is very high,” Davie said. “Of course we want to get value for everyone, but there will be particular instances where we’ve got exceptional talent where we’ll make those investments. I think when we make our case that is clear.”
The report also notes that the gender pay gap has fallen for the third year in a row to 6.2%, a third down from 2017’s 9.3% and well below the national pay gap of 17.3%. Four of the top 10 earners are now women, compared to none three years ago and 10 of the top 25 are women. Zoe Ball, who hosts “The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show” on BBC Radio 2, was one of the highest earners across genders with $1.75 million.
The DCMS Committee reports on the work of the BBC following publication of its annual report. Davie will make his first appearance before the Committee, alongside other senior BBC executives, on Sept. 29.