BBC pay: Almost half of corporations highest paid stars went to private school, figures reveal

Forty-five per cent of top-earning staff privately educated - compared with seven per cent of nation overall

May Bulman
Saturday 22 July 2017 19:56 BST
The BBC's biggest salaries revealed

Almost half of the BBC’s highest paid employees were educated at private school, it has emerged - just days after the corporation faced outrage over its gender pay gap.

Forty-five per cent of BBC staff earning £150,000 or more were privately educated, compared with just seven per cent of the nation overall – making someone who attended an independent school six times more likely to become a high-paid BBC star.

The figures, collated by Sky News political correspondent Lewis Goodall, showed that among those who were state-school educated, the vast majority went to grammar schools.

The number of “standard comprehensive working class boys and girls” among the high earning presenters were able to be counted “on one hand”, Goodall said.

The analysis also showed that among the highest-paid BBC senior managers the trend remained the same, with the list dominated by those with a private school education.

James Purnell, director of radio, James Harding, director of news, and the editors of the flagships Newsnight and Today, Ian Katz and Sarah Sands, were all privately educated.

The 45 per cent figure has prompted criticism from politicians, with Labour MP David Lammy accusing the “upper echelons” of the BBC of being a “closed club”, while the Liberal Democrats equalities spokesperson called on the corporation to “widen their talent pool”.

The BBC's biggest salaries revealed

Mr Lammy told The Independent: “The BBC as our national broadcaster needs to look like, sound like and reflect our diverse society. For too long the upper echelons of the BBC have been a closed club.

“On gender, on race, on disability, on sexual orientation and on class, it is clear that the BBC has a lot of work to do in fulfilling its public purpose of reflecting all aspects of the United Kingdom”.

Baroness Lorely Burt, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for equalities, said: “It is disappointing to see that the BBC, which purports to educate and entertain us all in Britain, draws from such a narrow range of talent.

“For top jobs in too many companies in the UK it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

“Top teams in organisations of all kinds need to widen their talent pool and embrace the fact that drawing on people who don’t necessarily look like them, think like them or have the same background as them will improve their performance and their bottom line.”

Addressing his findings, Mr Goodall said the “overwhelming” class pay gap was often overlooked, questioning why those born into households who can afford private school fees are considered “six times more talented” that those who are not.

“The gender pay gap may be too large but it’s not nearly as big as the class pay gap for the people who never made it in the first place because of their background,” he wrote in an article published on the Sky News website.

“The injustice is pretty overwhelming: after all, are we really saying that those who are lucky enough to be born into households which can afford to pay for private school fees are six times more talented?

“Six times better imbued with the skills required to be a successful BBC actor, sports presenter or journalist?”

Mr Goodall conceded that the “pattern of private school dominance” was likely to be repeated across the media industry, and urged for more to be done to get state school educated candidates into journalism in order to better reflect society.

“And it’s quite unfair to single out the BBC in this regard anyway, I’m sure the pattern of private school dominance is repeated across our industry: at Sky, ITV and across Fleet Street,” he said.

“But I desperately want to see more state schoolers from working class backgrounds get into TV and media and I want to see us all try and do more about it.

“Maybe, just maybe, if we had more kids in journalism who grew up in tower blocks, we’d have been better at shining a light on the living conditions of some of our fellow citizens, like those who lived and died in Grenfell Tower.”

It comes after BBC Director General Tony Hall admitted earlier this week that the corporation had a gender pay gap problem, as it emerged around two thirds of the highest earners were men.

A full list of BBC stars earning more than £150,000 was published on Wednesday morning following sustained pressure from the Government for the corporation to increase transparency on pay.

It revealed that the top highest earners were all men, including radio presenter Chris Evans, who earns the highest amount at £2.2-2.25 million, and Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker, who is on £1.74-1.79m. The highest earning woman was Strictly Come Dancing star Claudia Winkleman, who earns £450-£490,000.

A BBC spokesperson said: “More than 80 per cent of the BBC's workforce was educated in state schools and the BBC is more diverse than it has ever been. We also offer hundreds of apprenticeships to ensure the BBC is open to people from all backgrounds, but there's always more to do and we have an ambitious diversity strategy which sets out our commitment to do just that.”

The proportion of the total BBC workforce that attended a state school is 83 per cent, while it has set itself targets to increase diversity among staff.

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