Tom Mangold: None of your business what I'm paid

The argument for non-disclosure of BBC pay is not legal but moral

Share
Related Topics

I am a BBC Radio 4 freelance reporter/presenter working on a 10-part radio series. The public may pay my fees but they don't own me. So they can shove off if they want to know. I suspect they don't care that much. Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, believes the public have a right to know. Why?

Our fees are discussed in confidence with the BBC contracts department. I may well receive more or less than a colleague doing the same kind of work. If it is more, there is a reason – my age, experience, previous high-water marks in my career, my pulling power as evidenced by focus groups who report on my work, or maybe I got to sleep with a boss somewhere. Who knows. If the fees are less, that could be for the same reasons. Why should that be public property? What right has an airline pilot to pass comment on my work any more than I have on his?

Once fees are transparent to the world, editors will find it impossible to hire high-flyers (for a few dollars more) or the odd lame duck who needs a break but for far less money. Positive-discrimination hirings of minorities could become difficult once everyone knows what everyone else is earning. Invariably, they'll want the same and the temptation to create freelance fee bands will be overwhelming - and talent-destroying.

Presenter/reporters are assessed for an eclectic range of highly individual skills; and if the shrill jealousies of public involvement is allowed to interfere, individualism will perish. And once the public know, believe me, they will interfere. Think Jonathan Ross!

Worse still, once the public has the right to know details of our pay systems, why not our personal backgrounds too? They could be equally relevant and in the public interest, no? Is it a good idea to have a Jew covering Israel or a Muslim covering the Gaza Strip, or a protestant ensconced in Dublin for Radio 4? And what about that presenter of children's news? Isn't he twice divorced? Doesn't he have a drink-drive conviction? We have a right to know – don't we ?

The BBC Trust is wrong in arguing legal reasons for non-disclosure; the principle is not one of law but of morality, and sound commercial sense. A broadcaster's true value fluctuates with luck, fashion, good days bad days, and an editor's subjective view. There are precious few alternative radio employers to the BBC. Inter-channel poaching would become virtually meaningless if all BBC radio presenters fees were known to the opposition. Bargains could never be struck and necessary fabrications excluded from complex negotiations. Ultimately, instinct, experience and empiricism must determine whether my value as a war correspondent is more or less or the same as that of a gardening correspondent, but please allow me the privilege of confidential negotiations on my own behalf.

A final thought. Leigh's report says the BBC pays more than the market price for its top radio presenters. If only. Since leaving Panorama after 25 years (where I was paid a satisfactory fees arrangement for myself on a purely sui generis basis) and joining Radio 4, I have been paid less than one tenth of my old television reporter market value, and less that one 20th of my freelance newspaper writer value. Whoever is earning those big bucks, it certainly isn't me or my peers. And how much do I/did I earn? Wild horses wouldn't drag it out of me.

beebtom@aol.com

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Migrant boat disaster: EU must commit funds to stop many more dying

Alistair Dawber
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, centre, attends a news conference at Chigi Palace in Rome  

Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

Andrew Grice
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own