One of the fiercest critics of the secrecy surrounding presenters’ pay at the BBC has welcomed a new charter that could force the corporation to name stars earning over £150,000.
DUP MP Gregory Campbell said that a new Royal Charter for the BBC covering the next 11 years, announced by Culture Secretary Karen Bradley at Westminster yesterday, was a step in the right direction.
Ms Bradley unveiled the draft Charter in a statement to the Commons in which she confirmed that the corporation will be required to name BBC stars earning more than £150,000.
The change is expected to force the disclosure by next summer of the pay packets of more than 100 of the BBC’s best-known faces - including football commentator Gary Lineker and chat show host Graham Norton.
Mr Campbell said: “We don’t know what people like Stephen Nolan are earning at the BBC but we may be about to find out. It is not just about the personalities and it is easy to get carried away with all that. It is not about personalities - it is about the principles of transparency and accountability. The fact remains and it will remain so for the next 11 years that the BBC will be funded through the public purse in the form of the license fee.
“It is patently unacceptable for presenters to cross examine other people in the public eye about their income, their overheads, their taxi fares, their hotel stays - and it doesn’t matter whether they are politicians, civil servants, high profile heads of health boards or anybody else - when you can’t ask those very same questions about the people asking the questions.
“When the public is paying the bills they are entitled to know two things - what it is they are paying and what it is they are getting for what they are paying.
“The BBC has a long established record and people turn to them in times of national crisis and for major events but they are in danger of losing that historical record through a lack of transparency so I very much welcome these steps in the right direction.”
However, BBC Trust chairman Rona Fairhead condemned the move, warning it was not in the long-term interests of viewers amid fears it will find it harder to hold on its top stars. “We don’t agree with the Government on everything and are disappointed with the decision on the disclosure of presenters’ pay,” she said. “We don’t believe this is in the long-term interests of licence fee payers.”
In addition to the changes on the disclosure of those earning over £150,000, the new Charter aims to “ensure that the BBC serves all nations and regions and is more reflective of the whole of the United Kingdom - through operating licence obligations, specific Board representation and the continuation of production targets ensuring 50% of the BBC’s programmes are made outside of London.”
The next stage in the review process will be parliamentary debates of the draft Charter including in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales during the autumn. The new charter should come into force on January 1 2017.