BBC boss insists public support high salaries for 'talented' top earners

The public backs the BBC giving high salaries to "big stars" because they are "talented and entertaining", the director-general has said ahead of the corporation's annual report.

Lord Hall. Picture: Scottish Parliament
Lord Hall. Picture: Scottish Parliament

The BBC will publish details of its biggest earners on Tuesday in its report, the first since announcing it would be scrapping the universal free TV licence for over-75s.

Lord Hall, who has held the role at the corporation since 2013, said that it was spending "more than ever on content, but the amount we have spent proportionally on talent has come down".

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In an article for the Huffington Post, he addressed the revelation of a gender pay gap in 2017 when only 34 women featured on the 96-strong list of employees earning more than £150,000.

He said: "The BBC was rightly criticised for a lack of female representation when we first published details of our highest earning stars two years ago.

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"But the reality is that on pay we have come a long way to becoming a fairer organisation since then.

"For our top stars, this year's report will show that in 2019/20 we expect 45% of our highest earners to be women, and 55% to be men.

"Three years ago just 25% were women.

"That is a huge amount of progress but there is still more to do. I want to get to 50:50."

The listing of high-earners will come after the BBC announced that free licences will be restricted to over-75s who claim Pension Credit from June 1 next year.

Many have urged the Government to commit to the funding, saying it needs to honour the Conservative Party's 2017 manifesto pledge.

The Government has transferred responsibility to the BBC for the entitlement.

The BBC has said that funding the universal scheme would mean the closure of BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, the BBC Scotland channel, Radio 5 Live, and several local radio stations.

Last year, salaries were revealed in bands of £10,000 - this year they will be disclosed in bands of £5,000.