The BBC yesterday revealed pay details for the 2016/17 financial year for all of their stars that they pay over £150,000. Unsurprisingly, this has generated a lot of discussion in the media about the gender pay gap amongst other issues. The corporation receives unnecessary criticism from time to time and yesterday felt like one of those occasions.
It is an issue across society, and the criticism should reflect that fact. The BBC are not alone in the pay gap. I agree in principle that we need to close the pay gap, not just on a gender level, but also with minority groups in society. However, the BBC needs to pay a competitive rate so they can secure the best talent, otherwise other broadcasters, such as ITV, Sky, and Channel 4, will poach them.
The equivalent pay packets are higher at commercial television stations, and were the BBC to be ‘capped’ in some way, it would significantly affect the quality of the programming that they produce. Household names, such as Graham Norton, bring viewers with them that other presenters further down the pay scale may not.
Of note on the sporting front were Gary Lineker (£1.75m), Sue Barker (£300,000) and Jason Mohammad (£250,000) who are the BBC’s highest paid sports presenters. Lineker’s pay packet was criticised for being too high, although it does include fronting the BBC’s Euro 2016 coverage. Of course, we do not know whether Lineker’s figure is significantly above the market average.
I suspect several of Sky’s and Channel 4’s Formula 1 talent are above the £150,000 threshold that the BBC has revealed in line with their Charter, but that information is not currently available in the public domain and commercial broadcasters are not obliged to reveal it. It is fair to assume that the respective talent salaries have increased over time, partially due to the various switches between broadcasters. Several personnel have switched from ITV to the BBC and onto Sky (or Channel 4) and it is unlikely that their individual salaries will have remained identical during that period.
Across all genres, TV and radio, sport, entertainment and news, the on-air crew do not appear for air and then head off home, although there are some who may be naive enough to believe that this is indeed the case. There is a huge amount of research involved for any journalist or presenter. In the case of a Formula 1 presenter or MotoGP commentator for example, the research goes beyond a race weekend and into keeping up to date on the sport throughout the off-season, re-watching historical races and attending production meetings ready for the next weekend.
Just because you do not see it, or hear it through Twitter, it does not mean that it has not happened. Whilst I am not defending the pay amount of some in the industry, the idea that stars only work their on-air hours is absurd. There was a tweet from the BBC’s Media Editor Amol Rajan which illustrated this point nicely. Viewers probably saw around two hours of Rajan’s day on-air yesterday covering the #BBCpay story, but the reality is that he was working from 06:00 until at least 22:30, from BBC Breakfast through to BBC News at Ten.
However, as Rajan noted, the unsung heroes of broadcasting are not those that work in front of the camera, but instead those working tirelessly behind the scenes to keep the show on the road, sometimes weeks at a time. Many working for Formula One Management (FOM) will have worked from the set-up for the Austrian Grand Prix through to the de-rigging process following the British Grand Prix in one stretch, also accounting for F1 Live London. This is common place in the television and media industry.
As I have said previously, every programme irrespective of genre will require editors, producers, vision mixers, camera operators and so on and so forth. The people behind the camera are often paid less than on-air personnel, because the on-air team is what viewers tune in for on most occasions. And that applies in principle to sport as well: for Sky to acquire the services of Martin Brundle from 2012 meant a lot more to them than acquiring the best vision mixer. Some shows will make sacrifices behind the scenes to capture the best on air team, it is the nature of the beast.
Back to the pay itself: in my opinion, a proper debate requires full transparency, and in this instance, I do not think that is possible without the whole industry working towards the same goals and looking at the whole picture. Currently, the pay debate is, yet another, point to bash the BBC with.