The talent agents point out the BBC needs their clients’ permission to quote how much their clients earn. Which the stars are hardly likely to give. “What the BBC is doing is just a sop to the government,” says one agent. Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC’s oversight body BBC Trust, has called on the Beeb to publish how much its stars earn. It all stems from the furor after the BBC disclosed that TV host Jonathan Ross was paid £6 million ($9 million) a year. Lyons says that Auntie should publish numbers of who earns what in anonymous bandings. The press raged that the BBC was distorting the market, paying over the odds. The BBC was about public service, fulminated the opinion pages — stars should not expect to be paid as much as commercial TV.
One agent who represents several top BBC names says that Lyons’ mea culpa is more about him currying favour with the establishment. The horse has already bolted. In any case, I can’t really see what the point of publishing these anonymous salary bandings. All it’s going to do is launch a witch hunt as to who the BBC’s biggest earners are. And the market has changed since Jonathan Ross announced he was quitting the BBC. Fees have come down. TV presenters are not earning anything like what they used to.