If there’s one thing the British public loathe above all else, it is hypocrisy in high places. So when the BBC was forced to list its top earners this morning, the howl about Auntie’s breathtaking mendacity could have woken the dead. For what did we find? The Left-leaning, gender neutral-loving, equal opportunities-peddling behemoth funded by license fees nationwide pays women a fraction of what they pay men. There isn’t a black face in the top twenty earners and only one woman – the walking mascara wand Claudia Winkleman – in the top ten.
Now, I am not really qualified to comment on the top five because I rarely have time to appreciate their work. Shouty Chris Evans tops the pile earning well over £2 million for a morning show on Radio 2 that I don’t listen to. I’ve only seen Gary (£1.79 million) Lineker gurn and eat crisps so have no idea whether he’s worth all those shekels as a football pundit.
Graham (£900,000 and counting) Norton I have seen. If there’s one thing Gogglebox heroine Scarlett Moffatt has taught us, there are thousands of very funny men and women on sofas all over the UK just waiting to be discovered by reality TV and Vlogs. This gives the lie that the BBC is paying the market value for their talent who could earn more elsewhere. I don’t see ITV paying a million to the chuckling tipsy pixie, do you?
For all the stars who have graced Graham Norton’s sofa, can you recall one profound revelation out of all the boozy buffoonery? No, me neither. I would imagine Michael Parkinson is spitting feathers to see Norton’s pay grade compared to his golden age of celebrity interviews. If I were Clare Balding I’d be firing my agent. She made the list – unlike Women’s Hour’s Jennie Murray and Jane Garvey – but only to the tune of £150,000.
Clare’s fees are dwarfed by Alex (£400,000-449,999) Jones who is famed only for execrable babble in a regional accent on The One Show and Tess (£350,000-399,999) Daly who isn’t a fraction as funny as a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race and looks infinitely worse in a frock and heels. Radio DJs Vanessa Feltz, Zoe Ball and Lauren Laverne also earn over double Clare Balding’s going rate for spouting off-the-cuff nonsense in between records. It seems intelligence is as little regarded as equality in the BBC’s finance department.
The biggest embarrassment for the BBC is seeing two people doing precisely the same job like BBC Breakfast’s Dan Walker and Louise Minchin – ergo reading from autocue at an ungodly hour – with the former earning £249,000 and the latter under £150,000. Walker apparently has further onerous duties as a sports reporter – i.e. doing what fifty percent of the population does for free round a pub table every Saturday – but this simply doesn’t wash.
Being a Strictly fan, I know Bruno and Len do the US version but this doesn’t excuse their £200,000 plus pay packet for doing exactly what Darcy and Craig do for £50,000 less. I think the questions we have to ask go beyond equal pay for women even though the BBC have an awful lot of egg on their faces over that one.
If these people are the BBC’s assets, I would question why more of them aren’t tempted to walk away when poached by commercial channels. The answer is that the few who do forsake Auntie invariably bomb on ITV or Channel 4. There were a few surprise ommissions on the BBC’s list that suggested to me some posteriors were being covered. There wasn’t an Attenborough or Dimbleby or Berry or Hollywood in sight presumably because their money is siphoned through production companies and not paid directly by Auntie.
Personally, I think judging any salary against the Prime Minister is a fair assessment for pressures of work against pay. Ninety-six stars on the BBC highest paid list earn more than Theresa May. Now, whatever you think about Mrs May, her days are marginally more taxing than a three-hour stint on a morning news programme, a season of Strictly Come Dancing or filming a soap opera.
As with the BBC so with society in Britain. I don’t see many of the sisterhood standing up for Mrs May as only the second woman Prime Minister in British history. And yet if a new mother gets criticised for breast feeding in the National Gallery or some such you’ll find a tsunami of support on Mumsnet, Twitter and Facebook with headline news on Today and an hour-long special on Women’s Hour. Feminism is terribly selective, don’t you find?
I happened to be watching Gentlemen Prefer Blondes starring Marilyn Monroe the other night with H. Marilyn was, as Ella Fitzgerald observed, ahead of her time and she didn’t even know it. Marilyn was the first female star in Hollywood to set up her own production company and insist on director/script approval. This from a woman 20thy Century Fox head Daryl Zanuck considered a dumb blonde.
Well, Marilyn wasn’t dumb and she wasn’t blond. She also didn’t earn a quarter of what her Blondes co-star Jane Russell earned. Marilyn is a prime example of a unique human being. Nobody has or can replace her. Can anyone on the BBC Rich List confidently say the same?