Entertainment & Arts

BBC Trust wants to publish star salary bands

The BBC Trust has called for the publication of star salaries, marking a policy shift for the corporation's governing body.

Chairman Sir Michael Lyons said the BBC had to show that it was not "aloof and separate" from the economic problems the entire country faced.

He said the details of star pay would be revealed in bands, but individual salaries would not be disclosed.

A programme to cut senior BBC managers' pay would also be accelerated, he said.

Sir Michael announced the plans in a speech to the Voice of the Listener and Viewer in London.

Last year, the corporation announced it would cut the pay bill for senior staff by 25% in three years. That will now happen within 18 months.

Licence payers' interests

Sir Michael said £7m had already been saved by not filling some posts, deleting other posts and filling roles at lower salaries.

In addition, director general Mark Thompson and the rest of the BBC's executive board will receive only 11 months' pay in the current financial year.

Sir Michael said they had volunteered for this course of action against a backdrop of "limited pay increases and bonus freezes" for junior staff.

He also revealed that members of the trust, which represents licence fee payers, would take a pay cut of 8.3% over the next two years.

He said: "That's further evidence of the BBC recognising that this is a country facing tough times and that we need to do more to satisfy licence fee payers that we are genuinely using every pound and that we have particularly got to focus on the top pay of managers and the performers."

Initially, the disclosures about star pay will be anonymous, he added.

"However, I do believe we should release the names of those who receive the biggest incomes from the BBC."

He added that details of star pay would be revealed in narrower bands in a move to "significantly increase transparency".

He said: "We still accept the argument that sharing details of the costs of individual salaries for those people who appear in front of the camera would not be in the interest of the BBC and would not be in the interest of the licence fee payers. We remain of that view."

He added: "So strong is the public interest in those people who are paid the very larger sums of money by the BBC that we feel there is an argument for making available the names of those who are most highly paid.

"[We are] not saying how much they are individually paid but just being clear on the people who are the most highly paid people in the BBC."

'Difficult times'

Sir Michael later told BBC One's Breakfast that research suggested linking names to individual salaries could be inflationary.

He said: "There is a danger that if you reveal... what individuals earn, you start a competitive pressure between them which pushes salaries up.

"We need to strike the right balance between public confidence and not starting a spiralling process that costs the BBC more."

Earlier, he said it was not a "simple process" to disclose star salaries, not least because some contracts contained confidentiality clauses, but he challenged director general Mark Thompson to work "urgently" on a plan.

He also said there was no shame in people being among the most talented performers at the BBC.

In addition, senior managers' salaries will be published "without exception", and also set out in bands with details of the corporation's pay structure.

Sir Michael also said the trust would approach negotiations for the next licence fee settlement differently, putting aside the BBC's own position.

"The trust will enter those talks representing licence fee payers' interests alone," he said.

The next settlement - which determines how much the licence fee will be - is due in 2013.

The trust's chairman also made it clear that the completion of the digital switchover in 2012 "will be the trigger for the BBC to re-examine its portfolio of television channels".

Sir Michael said the public had to have confidence in the BBC.

"The nation is facing some very difficult times and I think it will just simply be intolerant if the BBC doesn't send a strong message that it doesn't stand aloof and separate from these pressures.

"It lives in the same world as the whole of the UK population."

Meanwhile, former BBC chairman Sir Christopher Bland told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Sir Michael had made a brave decision.

But it would have been "even better" if the BBC had taken the decision of its own accord, he added.

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