Research by Ipsos Mori indicates that the majority of UK adults believe the BBC should seek to have the highest quality presenters and reporters, even if it means competing financially with other broadcasters.
The findings have been released following the BBC’s disclosure of the wages of on-screen talent paid more than £150,000 annually. The BBC revealed 96 earners who fall into the bracket, including Chris Evans, Gary Lineker, Claudia Winkleman and John Humphreys, however it has been criticised by many for the size of some of the biggest stars’ wage packets.
The Ipsos Mori study, published last week on behalf of the BBC, indicated that 78% of those surveyed believe that “the BBC should be able to try to get the highest quality presenters, actors and reporters for its programmes and services,” with only 19% disagreeing with the statement. The survey, which spoke to 1032 UK adults, took place ahead of the release of the BBC’s annual report and salary details.
Speaking on BBC News, media analyst Claire Enders said “Overall the BBC is paying much less than commercial rates,” a sentiment echoed by the BBC’s media editor Amol Rajan, who wrote “the BBC pays below – sometimes much below – market rates, both at management level and in terms of top broadcasting talent.”
Rajan suggested that the disclosure of talent salaries may actually end up costing more in the long run, as underpaid talent demand a raise to the levels of their co-presenters.
The corporation has also received criticism for the gender pay gap which has been seen in the report. The corporation’s highest paid female star, Claudia Winkleman, received less than a quarter of what the BBC’s highest paid male star, Chris Evans, receives. Of the 96 top earners, almost two-thirds are male – 62 men to 34 women.
Director-General Tony Hall addressed the issue, saying “Is [the current gender divide] where we want to be? No. Are we pushing further and faster than any other major broadcaster? Most certainly. We’ve already set a clear and strong target for what we want to achieve by 2020: we want all our lead and presenting roles to be equally divided by men and women.”
He noted that, of the 43,000 talent contracts that the BBC has with presenters, actors and journalists, fewer than 0.25% were paid more than £150,000.
Criticisms were also made of the low number of BAME stars in the BBC’s highest paid list. Only 11% of those on the list were BAME; and of the top 10 highest paid earners, none were from a BAME background.