'How do you justify that?' Jeremy Vine challenges BBC boss over his own pay as stars react to salary publication

‘I’m listed as having a salary between £700-750,000. How do you justify that?’

Lucy Pasha-Robinson
Wednesday 19 July 2017 18:14 BST
Jeremy Vine quizzes boss over his own pay

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Louise Thomas

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The BBC’s top stars have spoken out after the corporation published a list of 214 staff who earn more than £150,000.

Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine’s reaction prompted confusion after he asked radio director James Purnell why he earned so much.

Mr Vine is the corporation’s fourth highest earner, taking home an estimated £750,000.

“I’m listed as having a salary between £700- and 750,000, how do you justify that?” he asked, during an interview on his show.

Mr Purnell replied: “You’re a fantastic broadcaster, you provide a huge public service... and there is a market for Jeremy Vines, there is a market for John Humphrys [BBC Radio 4 Today presenter].”

Meanwhile, BBC presenter Andrew Marr defended his £400,000 salary, claiming he had turned down higher offers from the broadcaster’s rivals.

The former political editor revealed his salary had been steadily decreasing and had dropped £139,000 in the past two years.

“In the past I have been offered deals by the BBC’s commercial rivals at a higher rate than the corporation would pay,” he said.

“Following the publication of the BBC’s annual report, I can confirm that I’m paid £400,475 a year.

“It covers the weekly Sunday morning show, my radio work, documentary commissions, television obituaries, and work on big news events such as elections and both the Scottish and UK referenda coverage.

“It's less, of course, than the £600,000 I was widely reported to be earning a couple of years ago; or indeed the £3 million a year the Daily Telegraph claimed I was paid.

“As the BBC moves to deal with highly paid employees, my salary has been coming down. I now earn £139,000 a year less than I did two years ago.”

Andrew Neil also addressed his inclusion on the list during on his Daily Politics show.

He said: "The BBC has published details of on-screen talent, which you may be surprised to know includes me - as on-screen talent."

He later joked during a sports segment: "Is Gary Lineker coming on to do this bit? That means the budget will be gone for the year."

Neil was included in the £200,000-£249,999 bracket, while Match Of The Day presenter Lineker's salary is more than £1.75 million.

Mr Lineker tweeted: "This whole BBC salary exposure business is an absolute outrage...I mean how can @achrisevans be on more than me?"

Earlier in the day, he wrote: “Happy BBC salary day. I blame my agent and the other TV channels that pay more. Now where did I put my tin helmet?”

But Strictly Come Dancing presenter Claudia Winkleman, the highest earning woman on between £400,000 and £450,000, said last year she supported salaries being published.

“I’m all for it. We get paid an awful lot of money and it’s a marketplace. It's bonkers,” she said.

“I love working for the BBC. I know that commercial stations pay a whole lot more – double, three times, four times. But I totally understand why people would want to know.”

Journalists at other stations criticised the announcement, with many highlighting the seismic gender pay gap that was revealed.

“This is pay discrimination. What you see is men at the top paying each other a stonking amount,” Sky news senior political correspondent Beth Rigby wrote on Twitter.

“The juxtaposition of BBC pay (& those big salaries) & pub sector pay freeze will be awkward given both paid via the public sector purse.”

Women’s Equality Party leader Sophie Walker said: “Why pay transparency matters. BBC is far from the only org, media or otherwise, to underpay and undervalue women.”

Others highlighted the lack of ethnic diversity among the corporation’s highest earners.

It comes as the union representing thousands of low-paid production workers employed by the BBC called for a minimum salary of £20,000.

Bectu – the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union – said it was “unjustifiable” for the corporation to focus on the earnings of those on more than £150,000 when thousands of engineers, technical and other production staff were paid a fraction of that amount.

Around 2,500 staff at the publicly-funded broadcaster are understood to earn less than £20,000.

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