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David Keighley’s BBC Watch: Gender aside, Auntie’s ‘talent’ is paid far too much


What are the lessons of the BBC pay row?

It reached fever pitch at the weekend with dozens of ‘underpaid’ BBC females claiming monstrous injustice – and, by implication, demanding oodles more licence fee payers’ cash – in a begging letter to the Sunday Telegraph.

Most ridiculous and self-righteous moment? Labour placeman James Purnell – now the grandiose Director of BBC Radio and Education, despite his total lack of prior broadcasting experience – being asked by Jeremy Vine why his salary for acting as a DJ ion a Radio 2 mid-morning show was a jaw-dropping £750,000 a year.

“Because you are fantastic”, replied Purnell. Well, of course.

Purnell – if asked – might perhaps also have similarly praised the rafts of these extortionately-paid top presenters who happen to share his political views. Gary Lineker (pay: £1.75 million), for example, who has tweeted that he is ashamed of his generation for voting to leave the EU. Or Graham Norton (£850,000), who declared on Irish television that the Brexit vote only happened because people were told a pack of lies.

After all this heat and indignation about Claudia Winkleman being paid less than Chris Evans, the House of Commons Digital, Media and Sport Committee (DDCMS) has decided that it will act. It has summoned DG Tony Hall and the new Invisible Man Chairman Sir David Clementi before it to discuss pay disparity.

Excuse me? This is an organisation lavishly funded by a punitive, regressive tax – now as outdated as tithes – which has spent the past 20 years doctoring the employment process so that 48.7 per cent of the staff are women. What more does this committee want?

Blood and stone come to mind. The process of devising pay scales which could somehow reflect the differences in job specs between Gary Linker, Chris Evans and Emily Maitlis and take into account their differing levels of ‘talent’, effort and application could take an army of BBC and DDCMS staff a generation to sort out.

And even then, of course, the equality Gauleiters such as Harriet Harman would not be happy.  They never are.

The real, most important issue here for the DDCMS Commons Committee to tackle is the overall incontinent pay levels at the BBC – which in the news department, for example, run at almost 40 per cent above their commercial equivalents – and the massive misuse of public funds such largesse represents.

Two years ago, the Cameron government had the chance in the BBC Charter renewal, to reform the BBC so that it was funded by subscription rather than a punitive, out-dated tax. If it had been made to compete properly for its income, the Corporation could no longer have sustained a gilded-cage approach and mentality.

That, inevitably, would have also rooted out the liberal-Left systematic bias which dominates and underpins everything that the BBC does. The opportunity – thanks primarily to George Osborne – was missed, and now debate about the Corporation’s future is mired in yet another totally irrelevant and spurious debate about ‘equality’.

Meanwhile, as the DDCMS Committee fiddles among these irrelevancies, Rome burns. The perennial, overwhelming BBC bias against Brexit continues unchecked, endangering the entire process and ensuring that daily sloshes of Remoaner petrol are given maximum headwinds.

Footnote: Last year, as Craig Byers notes here, more than 101,000 women were criminalised for not paying the BBC licence fee, compared to only 40,000 men. Chances of Emily Maitlis and her cronies writing to the Telegraph against such blatant inequality? Don’t hold your breath!

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David Keighley
David Keighley
Former BBC news producer, BBC PR executive and head of corporate relations for TV-am. Director of News-watch.

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