BBC stars’ true pay exposed as corporation ‘tries to hide’ what they really earn

The BBC is using a loophole to conceal millions of pounds paid to its biggest stars.

Its list of top earners – including Claudia Winkleman and Zoe Ball – does not include fees for shows, such as Strictly, made by independent production companies.

Around £5.2million of Graham Norton’s salary was missing from the list.

An MP said the BBC is “trying to hide” what it pays stars.

Chiefs have unveiled the latest official list of the Corporation’s highest-earning stars, with football presenter Gary Lineker at the top on £1.75million.

But things would look very different if the list included the fees for programmes made by independent production companies, including the Beeb’s own commercial arm BBC Studios.

According to Companies House, Graham Norton was paid £5.2million through his TV company So Television in 2017, mostly for fronting his Friday night chat show on BBC1.

His full earnings would easily make him the highest earner, but he is only third on the official list on £610,000. The Beeb is hiding millions more from the list of its top earners using the loophole.

A BBC spokesman defended BBC Studios being treated in the same way as other independent producers, saying: “It’s a fully commercial business. It’s not underpinned by the licence fee.”

He added: “On that basis you could ask Sky, Netflix and everyone else to publish salaries.”

But MP Andrew Bridgen condemned the Corporation.

The Tory said: “I’m not surprised the BBC are trying to hide what they’re paying their so-called talent by putting these huge salaries through BBC Studios, especially given they’re now hitting the over-75s for a £500million tax hike by abandoning their pledge to maintain the concessional licence fee.

“The BBC wants every protection of being funded by the taxpayer and every privilege of being a privately run business. I think anyone who is being paid by the taxpayer should have their salary disclosed. They can’t have it both ways.” Reporting the annual accounts for 2018-19, Beeb bosses revealed yesterday the gender pay gap is slowly closing.

Of those in the top 10, Claudia Winkleman’s salary would rise by about £400,000 if it included her role as Strictly Come Dancing host, putting her on £770,000. Zoe Ball’s listed pay of around £370,000 only covers six weeks of her role on Radio 2’s Breakfast show.

The true figure for her radio gig is thought to be £1.2million. She also gets an extra £300,000 for presenting BBC2 Strictly spin-off show It Takes Two, which isn’t listed because it is produced by BBC Studios.

The same production company also makes Strictly – meaning host Tess Daly’s £400,000 salary is not on the list.

Alex Jones is not listed either but takes home around £450,000 for her role on The One Show. Co-host Matt Baker earns around £500,000 for his work on the programme and on Countryfile.

Other shows that do not have to declare their stars’ earnings because they are made by BBC Studios include Top Gear, Doctor Who, EastEnders, Casualty and Holby City.

Soap stars have previously been among the biggest listed earners.

Now the salaries of actors such as Keeley Hawes, who starred in BBC1’s Bodyguard, are also hidden. The show is made by World Productions, owned by ITV Studios which also makes BBC series Poldark – meaning Aidan
Turner’s salary is also secret. Chris Evans was second on the list despite leaving the BBC at the end of 2018.

Of those listed last year, the biggest rises went to Radio 2’s Jo Whiley, who jumps around £100,000 to £270,000 and sports presenter Jason Mohammad (up £95,000). News anchor George Alagiah was up £25,000 to £315,000.

Among those going the other way was John Humphrys, down £110,000. It emerged the total number of stars earning more than £150,000 had risen to 75 from 64 last year, with the pay bill rising by £11million to £159million.

The BBC, which received over £4.9billion in licence fees and other income, said that was because they had invested £239million more in content over the past year, pointing out the average salary for those on the list was down by 6%, with the cost of the top 10 on the list falling by nearly 10%.

But the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “The BBC needs to explain why they increased the on-air pay and total staffing costs while saying they can’t fund free TV licences for over-75s.”

BBC director-general Lord Hall said the amount paid to stars was now a smaller proportion of total programming costs, accounting for 0.5% of the BBC budget, saying: “Our talent bill is coming down.” He added: “The BBC has arguably never mattered more to Britain or done more for the country.”

Figures showed BBC Studios ploughed £243million back into the BBC’s coffers, after a year in which profits grew 51% from to £159million.

See how much the BBC’s top earners are paid per second

This is how much top paid stars from the BBC earned in the last financial year – adding up in real time.

The link below shows how much they earned per second based on the midpoint of their salary band.

You can see the money racking up below and add your own salary if you want to compare.

Try it here.

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