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
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.