What’s the story?
The BBC’s annual report announced the salaries of the corporation’s top on-screen earners, and revealed not only the eye-watering amounts paid to some performers, but also the significant gender pay gap within the figures.
In a fairly remarkable act of transparency, the BBC has revealed the salaries of its top-earning TV and radio stars, even though doing so has opened the corporation up to significant criticism. In its annual report, the BBC announced that two-thirds of its on-air staff earning over £150,000 were male, and gave details of several salaries which were over or close to £1 million a year.
Top of the pile was radio host Chris Evans, last year sacked from his main television role as the host of Top Gear. Evans earned between £2.2m and £2.25m in the year 2016/17, mainly for his role as breakfast show host on BBC Radio 2.
Next in line were Match of the Day host Gary Lineker, earning between £1.75m and £1.8m, and chat show host Graham Norton, who was paid around £850,000. The highest-earning woman on the list was Strictly Come Dancing host Claudia Winkleman, on just under £1/2 million.
Drama, soap and comedy stars were proportionally far less well renumerated. Only ten members of the cast of BBC One’s nightly flagship Eastenders made the list, while Doctor Who actor Peter Capaldi earned between £200,000 and £249,999.
Although there was some outrage at the levels of the higher salaries, they are dwarfed by the sums paid by commercial channels such as ITV. Ant and Dec, the double-act who host shows such as Britain’s Got Talent, are paid a reported £15m a year each, although their employers are not required to publicly reveal amounts. The BBC does so as part of its transparency agreement with Licence Fee payers.
Most worrying though was the gap in pay between genders. Women earned less than their male equivalents in almost every pay range, and in almost every individual channel or programme. As a result, the BBC are now under serious pressure to take action, which – according to the corporation’s Director General Tony Hall – could include cutting some of the male staff’s pay to bring wages into better proportion with the women.
What have others been saying?
My column for Christian Today asks – is there a more hidden reason behind our outrage at high earnings?
Writing for The Guardian, Abi Wilkinson says that star salaries should only provoke us to a wider debate about inequality in Britain.
The complete list of earners who were above the £150,000 threshold is on the BBC’s news website.
#1 – MONEY
Jesus talks a lot about money, and often addresses those who have wealth. He sends the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 v 21 away to “sell your possessions and give to the poor” before following him (he can’t manage it), and in Luke 16 v 13 tells his followers and the watching Pharisees that “you cannot serve both God and money.” The problem never seems to be the earning of wealth, but the accumulation of it; Jesus tells those who have wealth to share it. This generosity was one of the founding principles of the early church, which in Acts 2 is notable for being a community where everything is shared or even held in common, and where as a result “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (v 47).”
#2 – TRANSPARENCY
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the BBC’s controversial announcement was the transparency, and therefore integrity of the move. Rather than trying to hide a dirty secret about gender-based pay differences, the corporation has confessed to the problem, and is now facing up to solving it. The Bible calls Christians to a high standard of integrity too: Jesus tells his followers to “simply let your yes be yes, and your no, no” in Matthew 5 v 37.
Meanwhile in 1 Samuel 12, the eponymous prophet confidently asks the people to name any moral or ethical failure of his entire time as leader, and they can find none (v 1-5); he is a leadership role model to Israel, and still to us today.
Points for prayer
- Pray that the response to these figures will not be envy, but a desire to see gender justice and good financial stewardship.
- Pray for the BBC, that as the nation’s public broadcaster it would be able to retain independence and avoid bias or political interference.
- Pray for those named in the report, that they would not be shamed by the figures, but feel inspired to use their money for good.
Martin Saunders is Youthscape’s Deputy Chief Executive. A former editor of Youthwork magazine and the founding Editor of sister-title Childrenswork, Martin is a popular speaker and the author of various books including ‘Youth Work From Scratch’. He lives in Reigate, Surrey with his wife Jo and their four children.