BBC tal­ent may get wage rise ‘on the quiet’ by us­ing in­de­pen­dent loop­hole

In-house pro­duc­tion arm, run with­out li­cence-fee money, could be used to keep hold of big names

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Anita Singh ARTS AND EN­TER­TAIN­MENT EDI­TOR

TOP tal­ent be­hind some of the BBC’S big­gest shows could be given pay rises next year that will not be dis­closed to the pub­lic, one of the cor­po­ra­tion’s top ex­ec­u­tives has said.

BBC Stu­dios, the in-house pro­duc­tion arm, which makes Strictly Come Danc­ing, Top Gear, Doc­tor Who and Ca­su­alty, among many oth­ers – be­came an in­de­pen­dent pro­duc­tion com­pany ear­lier this year.

Dis­cussing its in­de­pen­dent sta­tus, Mark Lin­sey, head of BBC Stu­dios, said yes­ter­day: “Crit­i­cally, what we’re able to do now is re­tain and at­tract creative tal­ent.” Asked if that meant BBC Stu­dios was now able to pay more, Mr Lin­sey replied: “Yes. If it’s a mat­ter of get­ting the right creative peo­ple to cre­ate pro­grammes of qual­ity and dis­tinc­tive­ness – yes, we will re­ward them as the mar­ket does.”

Pre­vi­ously, the BBC has in­sisted that it pays be­low mar­ket rate for some of its big­gest stars, who could earn more if they went to the com­mer­cial sec­tor.

The Gov­ern­ment only re­quires the BBC to dis­close salaries of £150,000 or more paid out of li­cence-fee money, but if that money is paid via an in­de­pen­dent pro­duc­tion com­pany it does not have to be made pub­lic.

It means the pay of Clau­dia Win­kle­man (cur­rent salary £450,000 to £499,999) and Tess Daly (£350,000 to £399,000), the Strictly pre­sen­ters, will be ab­sent from next year’s list, as will that of Derek Thomp­son (£350,000), the Ca­su­alty ac­tor, and Danny Dyer (£200,000 to £249,000), of Easten­ders.

Keep­ing those salaries se­cret, in­clud­ing in­for­ma­tion about pay rises, will mean the cor­po­ra­tion’s gen­der pay gap will be less trans­par­ent. It also comes af­ter the BBC was widely crit­i­cised for the amounts it pays to top stars, with Lord Hall, the direc­tor-gen­eral, in­di­cat­ing that some male salaries could be cut.

BBC sources said big pay deals from BBC Stu­dios were more likely to be di­rected at shows that have at­tracted fund­ing from ma­jor US play­ers, such as Good Omens, a forth­com­ing co-pro­duc­tion be­tween BBC Two and Ama­zon.

How­ever, they could not rule out BBC Stu­dios pay­ing ex­tra to re­tain big stars who threaten to go else­where.

The cor­po­ra­tion an­nounced yes­ter­day that BBC Stu­dios and BBC World­wide are to merge, form­ing one com­mer­cial en­tity.

Mr Lin­sey said: “This is a re­ally crit­i­cal and im­por­tant move for the BBC. It safe­guards us and it keeps us rel­e­vant in an in­creas­ingly com­pet­i­tive world dom­i­nated by global op­er­a­tors and it will also en­sure that money flows back into the li­cence fee.”

He was speak­ing at a Voice of the Viewer and Lis­tener con­fer­ence.

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