STEPHEN GLOVER: The only people cheering the BBC pay rises will be Auntie’s enemies
Who will be the happiest person in the country following the BBC‘s admission that a record amount of money was paid in the last financial year to its ‘on air talent’?
Who will slap his sides and roar his approval at the news that Zoe Ball – host of Radio 2’s Breakfast Show, whose audience is plummeting under her wobbly stewardship – was paid £1.36million in 2019/20?
The answer is Dominic Cummings. How overjoyed he will be to see the Beeb suffering yet another self-inflicted wound!
Dominic Cummings will be overjoyed to see the Beeb suffering yet another self-inflicted wound
Boris Johnson’s chief adviser is at the heart of a BBC-hating No10. They want to hack back the Corporation, and ideally eviscerate it.
Their ultimate ambition is to abolish the mandatory licence fee, which stands at £157.50 a year.
In the meantime, the plan is to decriminalise non-payment of the fee, which Auntie reckons will cost her about £200million.
I’ve little doubt No10 will think of other ways of squeezing the Beeb. Will the great British public cry out in rage as the BBC suffers death by a thousand cuts? Will people march down Whitehall to protest against the slow strangulation of a revered national institution? I don’t think so.
A recent poll commissioned by the Mail found that two-thirds of respondents want the licence fee scrapped, while more than half think the Corporation too politically correct.
Something is happening which I would not have thought possible a decade ago. The BBC is inexorably losing the affection of the British people.
In a multi-media world, a compulsory annual charge commands diminishing support. Auntie is facing competition from the likes of Netflix and Amazon, which have far deeper pockets.
Yesterday’s publication of gigantic BBC salaries will be greeted by many as further evidence that it is increasingly out of touch with its audience, and has jettisoned the values of public service that once distinguished it.
The French statesman Talleyrand supposedly said, when the Bourbons were restored after the abdication of Napoleon, that they ‘had learnt nothing and forgotten nothing’. So it is with the BBC. Its deadly motto could be ‘Carry on Regardless’.
Auntie is facing competition from the likes of Netflix and Amazon, which have far deeper pockets
In the last financial year, the total salary bill for ‘talent’ edged up £1million to £144.6million, while pay for the BBC’s executive committee rose from £4.95million to £5.41million despite endless undertakings that top management would tighten its belt.
It’s true – let’s give credit where it is due – that some male stars have to limp by on slightly smaller salaries than they did a few years ago. Newsreader Huw Edwards must now scrape by on £465,000 a year. On the other hand, several women are being paid more, admittedly often for extra work.
In addition to her job asking not especially perceptive questions on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, Lauren Laverne has become 6 Music’s lead presenter. Result: an annual salary of £395,000.
So one way and another, the gravy train rolls on, although the distribution of funds is now tilted a little more in favour of female stars as the Beeb frantically corrects its erstwhile indulgence of men.
Football pundit Gary Lineker has agreed to take a cut of 23 per cent on his salary of £1.75million
Zoe Ball – host of Radio 2’s Breakfast Show, whose audience is plummeting under her wobbly stewardship – was paid £1.36million in 2019/20
Even football pundit Gary Lineker has agreed to take a cut of 23 per cent on his salary of £1.75million so that next year Zoe Ball may possibly supplant him as the BBC’s highest paid star. Don’t fret too much, though. He has been sweetened with a five-year deal.
I expect he can afford a reduction as he also presents BT Sport’s Champions League coverage, which must bring in a few extra bob. I wonder why Mr Lineker thinks that the astronomical sum he receives from the licence fee payer isn’t a proper subject for public debate.
Yesterday he provocatively tweeted: ‘Oh dear. Thoughts are with the haters at this difficult time’.
Imagine if a Cabinet Minister receiving a tenth of his salary had tweeted that! Are we no longer permitted to question the vast amounts paid to Mr Lineker out of public money?
How many of these highly paid stars would earn as much if they worked for commercial broadcasters? Very few, I suggest.
How bizarre that, in a body supposedly committed to the values of public service, the pay is often more generous than in the private sector.
New director general Tim Davie has got off to a good start by reversing the decision to ban the words of Rule, Britannia! and Land Of Hope And Glory at the Last Night Of The Proms
How grotesque, too, that money should be lavished in ever greater quantities while the BBC is ending free licence fees for the over-75s, excepting only the very poorest pensioners.
And although it’s true these whopping salaries were set before the scourge of Covid-19, there has been no retrenchment in recent months.
As the rest of the country faces pay cuts and job losses, the BBC’s top brass sail on, unrepentant and unaware. That is why they’ll be celebrating at No 10.
The Corporation goes on behaving exactly as its enemies would wish. And I’m afraid it will find it has fewer friends than it used to.
Can it be saved? New director general Tim Davie has got off to a good start by reversing the decision to ban the words of Rule, Britannia! and Land Of Hope And Glory at the Last Night Of The Proms. His attempt to crack down on opinionated BBC staff pontificating on social media is also welcome. Reforming this arrogant behemoth will nonetheless be an almighty task.
I hope Mr Davie succeeds because the best of the BBC is worth fighting for. But it won’t survive in anything like its present form if it continues to carry on regardless.