BBC pays £22m to 19 stars

The number of top talent earning more than £100,000 a year at the BBC has gone up, according to its accounts which were released today.

The corporation paid 274 people six figure salaries in 2010/11 - up from 270 the year before.

The figures were released a week after BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said licence fee payers did not "expect the BBC to pay sky-high commercial rewards to people that work for a public service".

The report ranks on-air and on-screen talent by paybands but groups everyone earning from £500,000 up to £5 million together.

It shows the BBC paid out around £22 million to 19 stars in the top bracket - down from around £26 million to 21 people the year before.

BBC executives refused to be drawn on individual cases but it is believed the loss of Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley to ITV accounted for around £2 million in savings from the talent bill.

The report prevents identification of high-earning individuals, which the BBC says is needed for legal and commercial reasons.

Lord Patten said the corporation was not "hiding" anything and there was "no fundamental human right" for the public to know about a celebrity's pay packet.

He said there was a difference between "public accountability and prurience" and argued further disclosure might drive people to work for independents, which do not have to publish pay, rather than work directly for the BBC.

He said: "If we were to insist on infringing the data protection legislation, I imagine more people would choose to be employed by independent producers, which would hardly produce the effect people want."

The figures show the BBC also increased the numbers of talent earning between £250,000 and £499,999 from 26 to 33.

The number of people earning between £100,000 and £149,999 rose from 129 to 142.

But the total bill for talent came in at £212 million, down from £221 million in 2009/10.

The report also showed a cut in pay for senior managers, with the number of senior managers earning between £70,000 and £249,999 falling and £14.4 million knocked off the senior management pay bill since August 2009.

Writing in the report, Lord Patten said the BBC had to "live within its means" and warned of "difficult choices" ahead.

The report highlighted an increase in the BBC's overheads of around £15 million from £406.3 million in 2010 to £421 million in 2011.

Director-general Mark Thompson said the rise was partly down to being in "the middle of major structural change" including the move to Media City in Salford and the redevelopment of Broadcasting House in central London.

He also said the number of people the BBC employs would "start to fall and will continue to fall" as those projects are completed.

Mr Thompson said the report showed a "strong year" for the BBC.

He said: "Over the last year the BBC has continued to deliver outstanding quality programmes and content to all audiences. The BBC strives to bring the best to everyone, regardless of their means."