The BBC is held up as the prime example of public service broadcasting but intense competition means some popular television anchors are paid more than the industry standard – more even than the salary of Britain’s prime minister.
A parliamentary committee on Tuesday demanded such anchors be named in public, particularly when they are paid out of revenue generated by the mandatory annual license fee (£145.50) levied on every television household in the country.
The Culture, Media and Sport Committee said the BBC should publish details of all salaries over the £143,000 threshold for performers, presenters, producers and executives, and concluded there is no good reason to hide a BBC performer's total pay under the guise of preventing poaching by other stations.
Damian Collins, acting chairman of the panel, said: "On the question of pay, the point is that all these salaries are paid by the licence fee payer, whether they are for broadcasters or BBC executives. Why should there be different rules for each?”
He added, “It's disingenuous to say confidentiality is needed to prevent poaching when in general everyone in the industry knows what everyone else is getting paid. The threshold should be the same for both executives and talent, the salary of anyone getting paid more than the Prime Minister should be published.”
Collins said transparency on salaries was "a helpful tool to keep in control of pay costs", and pointed out it was standard practice in public bodies to declare pay packages above the prime minister's £143,000 annual salary.
The BBC is reported to be planning to identify those who earn more than £450,000. In its response to the committee’s report, it said it had "led the way in transparency by publishing details of senior manager salaries over £150,000".
It added, "We cut our bill for talent pay by £8 million last year, but creating a poacher's charter by publishing the salaries of individual presenters and actors wouldn't be in the interests of licence fee payers who say they want the best talent on the BBC."