An audience with the director general – you're kindly invited to take a pay cut

BBC's star presenters told to expect 25% to 40% salary reductions as Thompson seeks efficiency savings

The BBC director general Mark Thompson has called in some of the Corporation's highest-earning stars, including Jeremy Clarkson, Sir Terry Wogan and Bruce Forsyth, and warned them face to face that presenters must expect hefty pay cuts.

Stars from television and radio were invited to a special meeting on Tuesday on the sixth floor of Television Centre – where the BBC's most senior executives work – so that Mr Thompson could issue a bleak description of the Corporation's new working environment.

Although Thompson did not mention figures to the stars, the BBC is looking to renegotiate contracts with salary reductions of 25 per cent and for the highest earners as much as 40 per cent. It believes the going rate for presenting talent has been sharply depressed by economic pressures on commercial broadcasters and accepts criticism that it must not inflate the market by offering excessive salaries paid for by the licence-fee payer.

One BBC source said: "The real focus for us is on the top talent, that's where the market has changed most significantly." The BBC is aware that with ITV in financial difficulties, its biggest stars are in a weak negotiating position.

Earlier this month, Jay Hunt, the controller of BBC1, told The Independent that she was demanding that her stars took big pay reductions. "We are asking a lot of key talent to take sizeable cuts in their pay and in the main they've been quite receptive to that," she said. "If we have to lose people because they are not prepared to engage with us because of the efficiency agenda then we will lose them."

The BBC needs to deliver efficiency savings of £1.9bn by 2013. But although BBC executives have accepted a pay freeze, presenters and their agents are unhappy that the focus of salary-related cuts is on the people who front the BBC's most popular shows.

Tuesday's meeting was attended by around 100 presenters from all parts of the BBC, including Mariella Frostrup, Lenny Henry, Jo Brand and John Inverdale, along with senior Corporation executives. Thompson delivered an off-the-cuff speech in which he outlined the difficult economic conditions the BBC was now working in, emphasising the impact that talent salaries made on programme budgets.

But Alan Yentob, the BBC's creative director, who was responsible for drawing up the invitations, said it was incorrect to describe the meeting as a "grim" affair and said that nothing specific had been said to the stars about the size of pay reductions. He said: "It's about an equitable approach to talent costs in a climate which requires the BBC to be prudent and sensible. There's not some wholesale figure that's been thrown around. Mark outlined what challenges the BBC is facing, the opportunities creatively and the responsibilities to spend money wisely."

Yentob said that the purpose of the invitation to the presenters had to be to include them in discussions around BBC budgets rather than to reprimand them. The meeting ended with Forsyth taking hold of the microphone and delivering an impromptu skit about his loyalty to the BBC.

Sources close to Clarkson, who arrived late for the meeting, denied the suggestion that he had been "left reeling" by Thompson's address. Graham Norton and Chris Moyles, two of the BBC's best-paid presenters, were absent from the meeting, as was Jonathan Ross, who has been the focus of most public anger over excessive BBC pay at a time when the Corporation is supposed to be delivering cost efficiencies.

A House of Commons Public Accounts committee complained last week it suspected the BBC was overpaying radio stars but that the Corporation would not disclose to MPs details of presenter salaries.

BBC stars: What they earn


Presents: Wake up to Wogan (Radio 2)

Salary: £800,000


Presents: Jonathan Ross Show (Radio 2) Friday Night with Jonathan Ross (BBC1)

Salary: £6m


Presents: Newsnight (BBC2)

Salary: £1m


Presents: Totally Saturday (BBC1)

Salary: £2.5m


Presents: Ten O'Clock News and Crimewatch (BBC1)

Salary: £800,000


Presents: The Chris Moyles Breakfast Show (Radio 1)

Salary: £630,000


Presents: The Big Show and Sunday Love Songs (Radio 2)

Salary: £440,000


Presents: Today (Radio 4)

Salary: £150,000


Presents: The Jo Whiley Show (Radio 1)

Salary: £250,000


Efficiency savings the BBC must make by 2013.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Junior PHP Web Developer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Guru Careers: Front End Web Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: Our client help leading creative agencies ...

Christine McCleave: FP&A Analyst

£36,000 - £40,000: Christine McCleave: Are you looking for a new opportunity a...

Guru Careers: Web Developer / Javascript Developer

COMPETITIVE (DOE) + BENEFITS : Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Backend / HTML ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn