Entertainment & Arts

BBC's Mark Thompson backs publishing star 'pay bands'

BBC director general Mark Thompson has backed plans to publish stars' earnings in pay bands, but said revealing individual wages would be "wrong".

On Thursday, the BBC Trust called for earnings made by the corporation to talent to be made public.

Speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr, Mr Thompson said revealing exact earnings should be kept private.

He also defended the BBC's plan to overhaul staff pensions, saying "times are hard".

Last week the BBC announced plans to change its pension scheme in an attempt to tackle a £2bn deficit.

"Times are tough for everyone and pension arrangements, across the public sector, are going to be looked at very hard over the coming months," Mr Thompson said.

'Damaging and destructive'

On Thursday, BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons announced plans to reveal top talents' salaries in a speech to the Voice of the Listener and Viewer in London.

"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."

On Sunday Mr Thompson said "we absolutely accept the idea of publishing in bands".

He added: "The BBC is trying to find the right balance, on the one hand, the public's absolute right to have a sense of what the BBC spends on on-air talent, versus a broadcasting industry where confidentiality is the absolute norm, is the expectation and in some cases the contractual right of the individuals involved."

Mr Thompson also said the corporation's annual report, which is published on Monday, will reveal the "amount of money the BBC's spending on top talent is now coming down".

Publishing individual salaries, according to Mr Thompson, is not an option.

Image caption The BBC recently ended negotiations over Christine Bleakley's new contract

"I continue to believe that it would be wrong and it would be damaging and destructive to the BBC and its ability to get the top stars to actually publish individual salaries, because we're in competition with other broadcasters in an industry where no other broadcaster publishes this sort of information."

He said the BBC was "very competitive" but added its top stars were working for the corporation for "rather less than other broadcasters pay".

Mr Thompson added: "The public have got very clear views about this, which is the thing that matters most to them is they get outstanding news, entertainment and other kinds of programmes from the BBC. They want the best stars."

Mr Marr also asked Mr Thompson on whether he was still planning on axing BBC 6 Music.

"We're going to hear interim conclusions from the BBC Trust tomorrow [Monday], so let's leave that for then.

"We've got big questions about the future of digital radio, and I suspect one of the things the Trust are going to say is 'let's talk to government, let's talk to commercial radio and make sure that we've got a portfolio of radio stations."

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