BBC must come clean on how much it pays its biggest stars

The BBC must abandon a technical ‘loophole’ which hides the salaries of many of its biggest stars, MPs warned last night.

They called on the broadcaster to come clean over how much executives and celebrities paid through its TV production unit or independent television companies receive.

At the moment, its annual ‘rich list’ of highest-paid earners only includes those it pays directly – meaning the stars of hit shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and Casualty can all keep their pay deals secret.

The BBC must abandon a technical ¿loophole¿ which hides the salaries of many of its biggest stars, MPs warned last night (file image of Question Time presenter Fiona Bruce)

The BBC must abandon a technical ¿loophole¿ which hides the salaries of many of its biggest stars, MPs warned last night (file image of Question Time presenter Fiona Bruce)

The BBC must abandon a technical ‘loophole’ which hides the salaries of many of its biggest stars, MPs warned last night (file image of Question Time presenter Fiona Bruce)

And it allows top executives working for production unit BBC Studios to escape public scrutiny over their six-figure salaries.

Yesterday, MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee ordered the BBC to be more transparent and warned bosses that they will keep hauling them in front of the cross-party group to ensure it is tackling the gender pay problem.

Conservative Damian Collins, the committee chairman, said they ‘do not accept’ that long-running programmes such as Question Time should get out of disclosing presenters’ salaries because they are made by ‘independent production companies’.

He added: ‘Ultimately it is all licence-fee payers’ money, whether salaries are paid directly from the BBC, by BBC Studios or any other production company.’

The BBC claims that if it is forced to publish more details, the most sought-after stars and executives will opt to work elsewhere. It also argues that it will make it hard for BBC Studios to compete with its commercial rivals.

But the MPs said there is ‘no shortage’ of companies eager to work with the BBC.

The Government previously agreed that the BBC would not have to reveal figures for stars paid through third-party companies when they thrashed out the current BBC Charter.

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At the time, the BBC argued that disclosing the salary details of its biggest names would make it too easy for rivals to poach them.

At the moment, its annual ¿rich list¿ of highest-paid earners only includes those it pays directly ¿ meaning the stars of hit shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and Casualty can all keep their pay deals secret

At the moment, its annual ¿rich list¿ of highest-paid earners only includes those it pays directly ¿ meaning the stars of hit shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and Casualty can all keep their pay deals secret

At the moment, its annual ‘rich list’ of highest-paid earners only includes those it pays directly – meaning the stars of hit shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and Casualty can all keep their pay deals secret

But the landscape changed dramatically in 2017, when the first round of disclosures exposed the BBC’s yawning gender pay gap.

Now, critics fear that the loophole allows the BBC to hide huge payments to stars that would never win public backing.

They also claim that the BBC will be able to pick and choose which payments to disclose in order to manipulate the number of men versus women appearing on the list of highest-paid earners.

The BBC has already said that it will include Fiona Bruce’s pay package for Question Time in the next round of disclosures, although the show is made by an independent firm. By doing so, the BBC will be able to boast that it has improved the number of women among its top 20 earners.

In the report published today, MPs also savaged the corporation’s ‘failure’ to get to grips with the gender pay problem.

The group warned it will keep summoning bosses back to the select committee to see what they are doing to fix it, but said it ‘should not take a select committee inquiry for action to be precipitated’.

In their scathing report, MPs called on the BBC to set a deadline for resolving the ongoing equal pay claims by staff, and give workers access to more information about how much their colleagues earn.

They said the broadcaster should drill down into its official ‘pay bands’ and publish details of the male-female split for each quartile within each band, ‘so women can compare their salaries’ to their male colleagues doing equal work.

 

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