Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The 40 British TV stars on £1m (But the BBC won't tell the licence-payers who they are)

Jonathan Ross

Three-year deal: Jonathan Ross with wife Jane Goldman

About 40 TV and radio stars in the UK are earning more than £1million a year, it was revealed yesterday.

A review into the cost of paying performers also showed that around ten receive more than £2million.

The research - commissioned by the BBC's governing body but covering all broadcasters - revealed the true scale of the money being paid to a handful of names.

Those understood to be earning more than £2million a year include the BBC's Jonathan Ross and Graham Norton and ITV's Simon Cowell and Ant and Dec.

Jonathan Ross is on £6million a year, while Graham Norton is believed to be paid around £ 2.5million.

Ross has a three-year-deal while Norton is on a two-year contract.

Over at ITV, Ant and Dec are understood to be sharing £30million as part of their current two-and-a-half year deal. Simon Cowell's three-year deal is worth about £20million over three-years.

The report said top comedians, actors and cookery presenters could earn another £1million a year from spin-offs such as DVDs and books.

Below the very top level there are about another 300 personalities earning between £100,000 and £500,000 a year for their appearances.

The BBC Trust commissioned the review following an outcry over the salaries paid to the likes of Ross and Norton.

But following its publication the corporation's governing body insisted its top stars deserved their huge salaries.

Such deals did not distort the market, the trust said. The findings flew in the face of widespread concern-over the way public money is lavished on presenters' salaries.

That concern will only be increased by the trust's decision to remove from its report the details of how much the stars' pay has risen.

There were claims yesterday that the report was a whitewash because it contained no details about the individual salaries commanded by its presenters.

All the trust would admit was that the pay of the most popular presenters was growing 'significantly faster' than the overall 6 per cent rate for performers as a whole.

Following the publication of the report by Oliver and Ohlbaum Associates, the trust said there was no evidence that the corporation was 'paying more than the market price for leading TV talents'.

The review did, however, raise concerns over the pay of radio and news presenters. It suggested that, as the BBC's network radio had no effective commercial opposition, it might be paying over the odds for its star names such as Chris Moyles.

Critics yesterday accused the trust of missing the point with its defence of stars' salaries.

They claimed that, even if the corporation was paying the market rate, it was not the role of a public broadcaster to enter bidding wars for talent.

Politicians said that, rather than using licence fee cash to go head to head with ITV and Channel 4, it should focus on finding new talent.

Tory culture spokesman Jeremy Hunt said: 'The BBC has a remit to produce distinctive programmes.

'Therefore, the only justification for paying for big names is to attract a larger audience which goes on to watch less mainstream programmes.

'But this report leaves us in the dark as to whether paying high salaries is the most cost-effective way of delivering large audiences for BBC programmes.'

The BBC Trust claimed that the corporation should not put at risk its ability to attract the best talent to be enjoyed by licence fee payers.

It said: 'A BBC without big name talent, top sports or other rights could exist, but it would be a very different BBC to the one the audience knows and values.'

Original here

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