Now more than ever the BBC must justify the money that it pays on salaries

News Letter editorialNews Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
The latest in the annual revelations of BBC star salaries have been unveiled.

There are three reasons why the data, which has seen some top salaries increase at the corporation, are striking this year.

The first is Covid-19, which has shaken society and caused people to think about the things that matter, such as low paid workers who kept society moving during the pandemic.

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Coronavirus has also caused financial agony to most of the private sector, and ruin to many people in business, yet publicly funded employees have emerged completely unscathed.

The second reason that high salaries stand out at this time is that the BBC is no longer paying licence fees for the over 75s. If it says it can’t subsidise them, then we need assurance that there are not internal savings it could have made instead.

The third reason that big expenditure on stars will come under close scrutiny is that there is an ongoing resentment among people of a conservative (or unionist) perspective that the BBC is biased against them, perhaps in subtle ways.

The new director general, Tim Davie, has remarked on the need to stamp out any hint of bias. And that must happen.

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Brexit showed that patriotic and eurosceptic views are held by at least half the population. Elections show that unionism gets almost half of the Northern Ireland vote. And Donald Trump has at points been backed by about half of US voters.

All these views, and opposing ones, must be treated with absolute neutrality.

The BBC remains a great broadcaster. Unionists above all should be wary about its destruction, because its very existence helps foster a UK-wide sense of Britishness.

The BBC uses real talents, locally including Stephen Nolan, who has matured into an investigative broadcaster. It is reasonable to pay them well. But why, for example, is the BBC median wage for its workforce almost twice the UK average?

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The compulsory nature of the licence fee means such costs must always be detailed and justified.

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Alistair Bushe