BBC to trim stars' massive pay deals

The BBC is to trim the massive pay deals it uses to attract top stars after the storm caused by the antics of Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand.

Mark Thompson, the director general, warned that economies were planned at all levels of the corporation – including the budget for big-name celebrities. The BBC faced anger two years ago when it made Ross its top-paid star on a three-year contract of £18m. He has been suspended without pay for 12 weeks – and will lose £1.4m – for his part in leaving a series of crude messages on the answering machine of the actor Andrew Sachs.

Mr Thompson said yesterday: "I think we are heading towards a period where it is probably the case that we will be able to secure the best entertainment talent for less than we have been able to do in the past few years."

He was speaking after a week of disastrous publicity for the BBC leading to the resignations of Brand and Lesley Douglas, the controller of Radio 2.

The director general told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: "We go through periods of sharp upward inflation but we sometimes go through periods where there is retrenchment. This is quite a difficult period. Inflation is much higher than the licence fee, the sale of commercial property is harder, so we are looking at expenditure to make sure that if we can save money we will."

He added: "The market is changing. What we do every year is look closely at labour markets, what is happening to remuneration in commercial television, radio and the market for stars and talent, and try to get the best deal."

Calling Ross an "outstanding broadcaster", Mr Thompson said he hoped he would return after his suspension.

His predecessor as director general, Greg Dyke, said: "If the BBC is to pay enormous sums to artists, such as the £6m a year to Ross, then it must understand it will lose public support. There is always a price that is too high for a publicly-funded organisation."

Ross is by the far the best-paid BBC employee, followed by Graham Norton on £2.5m a year, Gary Lineker on £1.5m and Jeremy Paxman on just over £1m.

Information released to The News of the World under the Freedom of Information Act disclosed that 50 of the corporation's managers are paid at least £160,000 a year. Mr Thompson's salary is £816,000, while Jana Bennett, the director of BBC Vision, earns £536,000 and Mark Byford, the deputy director general, earns £513,000. John Whittingdale, the chairman of the Commons culture select committee, said: "It's almost impossible to imagine a commercial broadcaster being capable of these kinds of salaries."

Michael Parkinson, the chat show host, had little sympathy for Brand, whom, he said, was "generously called a comedian". He said Ross would be back but added: "Jonathan should have more oil in his lamp, more sense. He's very good but given to fits of madness."

A Conservative government would attempt to "rein in" the BBC by possibly cutting the licence fee. The party last night confirmed it was examining the plan within a wide-ranging review of the BBC's future. One proposal is to cut the licence fee by £6 a year. There is hostility among MPs in the party to the BBC, with some MPs viewing it as a liberal-leaning state monopoly.

David Cameron, the Conservative leader, is believed to favour retention of the licence fee but with a stronger system of accountability. A Conservative spokesman said: "We are considering options with regards to the licence fee but haven't ruled anything in or out."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Scientists believe Mercury is coated in billions of years’ worth of carbon dust, after being ‘dumped on’ by passing comets
science
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Payable Clerk

£21,000 - £24,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a new opportunit...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Manager

£55,000 - £65,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accountant with ...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Finance Analyst

£50,000 - £60,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accountant with previou...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor