At least 91 BBC executives earn more than the Prime Minister, raking in close to £90 million a year between themselves. The salaries are on top of the pay-packets handed out to 250+ of the Corporation’s top stars who each earn more than a quarter of a million pounds a year.
The whopping salaries have not stopped some of the highest paid bosses warning that premium services, such as the arts channel BBC 4, may be cut as the Corporation has its budget reined in ahead of the Charter renegotiation in 2016, the Daily Mail has reported.
Last month former BBC star Noel Edwards criticised his former employers, saying the BBC was in a “total mess”, and that he expected its funding would be lost. “There are too many chiefs, they throw money around, but they don’t know what they are throwing it at,” he told Event magazine.
The salaries include £450,000 paid to director general Lord Hall, £240,000 for BBC One controller Charlotte Moore and a £35,000 a year package paid to Helen Boaden, head of radio. By comparison, Prime Minister David Cameron’s salary is £142,000 a year.
Despite repeated assurances that the BBC is doing all it can to keep down costs, the figures, released by the BBC for transparency purposes, show that the number of highly paid staff is on the rise. At the start of the year 87 members of staff were earning more than the Prime Minister, meaning that four more entered the prestigious pay bracket during the course of the year. The pay details of all staff earning over £150,000 were given.
A BBC spokesman last night said: “The BBC has made significant savings on pay, expenses and property – overall we have saved over £150million per year on pay and head count; reduced the number and pay bill of senior managers by more than a third; reduced talent pay by £35million since 2008; and we have cut the number of buildings in the UK and overseas – all helping to us to save £1.1billion a year.”
The bumper pay packages haven’t stopped members of the BBC’s executive from warning that services may have to be cut if funding is cut. Finance director Anne Bulford, who is remunerated with £395,000 a year, warned that “tough choices” would have to be made, while her colleague, strategy chief James Purnell, an ex-Labour MP (£295,000 a year), refused to rule out axing another arts service such as BBC 4 to save cash.
Not everyone was convinced. There is “plenty more fat to be cut from the BBC’s bloated management,” said Conservative MP Philip Davis, who accused the pair of trying to frighten the British public into supporting licence fee rises.
Two weeks ago his colleague Andrew Bridgen wrote to culture secretary Sajid Javid to call for the £145 a year licence fee to be scrapped and replaced with a subscription model. Last year, the BBC raked in £3.5 billion from licence fee payments. His letter was supported by more than 50 fellow Conservative MPs, including Mr Davis.
He wrote “The corporation should be planning for a future without the licence fee and investigating subscription-based payment options, as well as the wealth of further opportunities that exist for its worldwide operation.”
Philip Davis told the Sunday Express: “I totally believe the BBC licence should be abolished and moved to a subscription model. The BBC keeps saying the fee represents wonderful value for money; in that case it has nothing to fear from entering the market.
“The only reason for the BBC to oppose this idea is because it believes it doesn’t represent such wonderful value and is worried people will vote with their feet.
“In this day and age when there are hundreds of channels to choose from, it is wholly unjustified to impose a compulsory levy for one particular broadcaster, regardless of whether you like their programmes or not.”
A BBC spokesman said: “At just £2.80 a week the BBC licence fee is excellent value for money; only this weekend newspapers have been reporting the rising costs of subscription services.
“It’s vital that programmes like EastEnders, Strictly, Sherlock, Doctor Who and Match of the Day can been watched by everyone, not a select few. Support for the licence fee has actually risen by 22 per cent since 2004 and remains the most popular way of funding the BBC.”