Photographer: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Photo

Panel Wants BBC to Reveal Pay of Stars Earning More Than May

  • Parliamentary committee seeks more transparency at broadcaster
  • Salary disclosure threshold already applies to executives

A U.K. parliamentary committee called on the BBC to publish the salaries of on-air performers earning more than Prime Minister Theresa May’s 143,000 pound ($188,600) salary, a lower threshold than the government is seeking in a proposed overhaul of the public broadcaster.

The government of former Prime Minister David Cameron in May proposed disclosing the pay of BBC stars earning more than 450,000 pounds, as part of its plan for renewing the British Broadcasting Corp.’s operating charter for 11 years. The move is aimed at increasing transparency in the BBC’s use of the 3.7 billion pounds it receives from a license fee on television-owning households.

The BBC already publishes the salaries of executives earning more than the prime minister. It has withheld similar information about actors, presenters and other on-air talent, saying that providing their salaries could make it easier for rival broadcasters to lure them away.

“These salaries are paid by the license-fee payer, whether they are for broadcasters or BBC executives. Why should there be different rules for each?” said Damian Collins, acting chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. “It’s disingenuous to say confidentiality is needed to prevent poaching when in general everyone in the industry knows what everyone else is getting paid.”

The committee also objected to the appointment of Rona Fairhead, chairman of the BBC Trust, which oversees the broadcaster, to a comparable role on a new supervisory board that would be created under the government’s proposal.

The panel said it would have been better to conduct an open selection process. Under the government’s plan, the BBC is set to be monitored by Ofcom, the U.K. media and telecommunications regulator, rather than the BBC Trust.

The government’s plan is a “sensible compromise,” the BBC said in a statement. It said it reduced its bill for on-air talent by 8 million pounds last year.

The BBC “already publishes more information about talent pay than other broadcasters,” it said. Publishing the pay of “individual presenters and actors wouldn’t be in the interests of license-fee payers who say they want the best talent on the BBC.”

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