BBC pay packets 'far too high' says Wogan

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The Independent Online

Sir Terry Wogan waded into the debate over salaries at the BBC - saying pay packets were "far too high".

And the 71-year-old broadcaster suggested high-earners could take a cut of up to 15%.

His comments come just days after Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC Trust, said the names of those drawing the biggest salaries should be made public.

Sir Terry told The Mail on Sunday's Live magazine: "The good old days have passed. You have to be responsible. The audience would be unhappy if they thought you were being overpaid. Look how the public reacted to, say, Jonathan Ross.

"If they're going to start cutting working people's wages, you can't say you're in a privileged position because you work in television.

"Frankly, salaries were far too high. They could stand to take a 10 to 15% cut. If the public sector is taking that, I see no reason why everybody shouldn't."

And he said he took a cut himself, adding: "People are worried where their hard-earned money is going, and the BBC is a visible target."

The corporation faced criticism for the amount it pays senior executives and on-air talent.

According to figures released earlier this year, the corporation spends £54 million on its top-earning stars.

These are reported to include Jonathan Ross, Graham Norton, Jeremy Paxman and Fiona Bruce.

The broadcaster also sparked an outcry after details of Ross's £6 million-a-year deal were revealed.

In his speech at a seminar in London on Wednesday, Sir Michael, who is also BBC chairman, outlined plans to slash pay and called for greater transparency.

He told the audience that every pound the BBC takes from licence fee-payers must be shown to have been spent well.

But he said that did not mean the salaries of individuals would be made public.

The BBC has already committed to reducing the amount it spends on top talent.

It planned to cut the total pay bill for senior management by 25% over three years but on Wednesday Sir Michael said this process would be accelerated to take place within 18 months.