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Transparency of the BBC

Published Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Westminster Hall debate on the Transparency of the BBC is scheduled for Thursday 7 September 2017 at 1.30pm. The Member leading the debate is Gregory Campbell MP.

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 The BBC’s Royal Charter requires BBC annual reports to include:

  • the names of all senior executives of the BBC paid more than £150,000 from licence fee revenue in that financial year 
  • the names of all other staff of the BBC paid more than £150,000 from licence fee revenue in that financial year set out in pay bands[1]

This requirement was introduced during the Charter Review process in 2016.[2]

BBC Annual Report (July 2017)

The BBC’s annual report for 2016/17 was published on 19 July 2017.[3] An annex to the report lists staff paid more than £150,000.

The salaries disclosed in the annual report generated a large amount of comment, much of it on the gender pay gap at the BBC.[4]

During a speech launching the report, Tony Hall, Director-General of the BBC, said that he wanted the BBC to go “further and faster on issues of gender and diversity”.

On 6 September 2017, Tony Hall set out the BBC’s autumn priorities. On fairness and pay he said:

(…) we’ve got to continue to modernise - and a big priority as part of that is fairness and pay…

I want to make progress quickly, so let me tell you what we’re doing right now:

  • First, we’ve commissioned a report on our gender pay gap - and it’ll be independently audited.

Our gap is primarily about the different balance of men and women at different levels. It’s based on the whole picture across the organisation, and the causes tend to be structural, and societal.

That doesn't mean we should be complacent about it, and I'm determined to close the gap - a commitment I don't think any other organisation in the country has made.

  • Secondly, we’re doing an audit of equal pay covering our staff based in the UK. It’s independent. It’s being carried out by Eversheds and PwC, using tried and trusted methods from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

And it’s well underway - looking at job families, like-for-like work - across the organisation to make sure that, where there are differences in pay, they’re justified. If it throws up issues, we’ll deal with them immediately.

We'll publish both of these reports as soon as they're complete. and, to repeat, we'll take action wherever we need to.

  • Thirdly, we’re reviewing our approach to on-air presenters, editors and correspondents - particularly in News and Radio. Of course, we’ll be looking at pay but also representation.

As I hope you know, we’ve set really ambitious targets - not just on gender, but on diversity more broadly.

You’ll see changes over the coming months.

  • And fourthly, we want you to get involved. I promised a consultation before the summer - and it’s underway. Please make your views heard - there’ll be plenty more opportunities to do so.

This is just the start. There are more things on the table - from the way we recruit, to the way we promote, to the way you can raise questions. And I’ll have more to say in the coming weeks and months…[5]

Calls for further transparency

The BBC’s annual report only gives details of staff payments made from licence fee revenue. The figures therefore exclude, among other things, amounts from commercial investments into programmes, payments made by commercial entities such as BBC Worldwide, and payments made by independent producers.[6] People working for BBC Studios are on the list this year but they won’t be next year.[7]

In August 2017, Damian Collins, Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, told the Edinburgh International Television Festival that the salaries of those working for BBC Studios should be disclosed by the BBC:

What would be unacceptable is if, next year, BBC Studios turned around and said, ‘All these people being paid on Strictly, we are not going to disclose their salaries because we are now an indie and we don’t have to.’[8]

A BBC spokesman responded:

BBC Studios is a fully commercial business and not underpinned by public money. Equally, independent production companies are private businesses. We are buying programmes from them, not talent.

All this was agreed as part of the BBC royal charter, which exists for the next 11 years.[9]

 

[1]     Cm 9365, December 2016, para 37(2)(j)

[2]     “BBC Charter to safeguard future while delivering transparency for licence fee payers”, DCMS News release, 15 September 2016; For further background see the Library Briefing Paper, BBC Charter Renewal (CBP 3416, 28 December 2016)

[3]     “BBC annual report published”, BBC News, 19 July 2017

[4]     “BBC facing backlash from female stars after gender pay gap revealed”, Guardian, 20 July 2017; There was also comment on the gap between the highest and lowest-paid employees at the BBC: “Revealed: how hundreds of BBC employees earn 1% of Chris Evans’s wages”, Guardian, 22 July 2017

[5]     “Speech by Tony Hall about BBC priorities for autumn 2017”, BBC, 6 September 2017

[6]     Annex to the BBC Annual Report 2016/17, p6; see also “Tony Hall speech at the launch of the BBC’s Annual Report and Accounts 2016/17”, BBC, 19 July 2017

[7]     BBC Studios launched as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the BBC in April 2017

[8]     Quoted in “BBC stars must be forced to declare 'off the books' pay, says Tory MP”, Telegraph, 25 August 2017

[9]     Ibid

Commons Debate packs CDP-2017-0155

Authors: John Woodhouse; Sarah Pepin

Topic: Broadcasting

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