This piece was written on 23 September 2010 - with a January 2018 afterthought at the end
Why is it the fashion these days, especially in the media, to compare salaries to that paid to the Prime Minister (or even to the Chief of the Defence Staff as BBC Panorama tried earlier this week). Why has the PM’s salary suddenly become the norm by which all others are to be judged? You might just as well compare Controller BBC 1's salary with that of the brave Royal Marine Commando killed a few days ago in Afghanistan. A person’s salary, especially in the public services, should be set on merit not by comparing their job with the PM’s, or anybody else’s for that matter. Professional footballers, and even Jonathan Ross, command their huge salaries because they do what no-one else can do as well. Good luck to them – well, the footballers anyway.
Now consider the BBC. What do all the highest paid BBC managers actually do all day, every day? There are hundreds of managers – look them up on the BBC website. What are their particular skills that justify their high salaries. If all those jobs are deemed essential, is it really true that there is no-one else equally capable and willing to do them for much smaller remuneration? The important thing is that BBC managers don’t, as far as I’m aware, actually produce any programmes; programme makers do that. Perhaps we should be told how their salaries compare.
Since the day ITV first went on air, 55 years ago yesterday, I've always believed that the BBC is wrong to try and compete with commercial stations for fear of losing the licence fee. That way we get a plethora of copycat progs - and it's worse now than it ever was. You know the sort of thing: cooking progs; make-over progs; soaps; quizzes; and docudramas such as Helicopter Heroes, Homes Under the Hammer, Filthy Rotten Scoundrels, Cash in the Attic (all showing one after the other today on BBC 1). Yes I know ITV and other channels get large appreciative audiences for those types of programmes but we don’t need the BBC to make them as well. ITV is free viewing – the BBC is not free, it gets the licence fee - taxpayers' hard-earned money.
In addition to culling half the senior managers, here’s another suggestion to save tax-payers’ money. Disband BBC1! There’s nothing on BBC 1 these days that could not be done, and is being done, equally well on ITV. The BBC’s best television output is on BBC2 and BBC4.
I had better mention that, like most people my age, I have always valued the BBC. My family were brought up on the BBC radio during and after WW2 because there was no easy alternative. I’ve just got my first free TV licence, having passed my 75th birthday. I could afford to continue paying the annual fee (and also pay for my bus tickets) and I would happily do so if the BBC were not so profligate with tax-payers' money.
Afterthought on 10 January 2018. I've just been re-reading the piece above. I still agree with everything I wrote way back in 2010 - especially in the light of the current, understandable, fuss about about the wide variation between male and female salaries at the Beeb (and elsewhere) and with special reference to the former BBC China Editor, Carrie Gracie. I have been a fan of Miss Gracie for many years. There cannot be many, if any, BBC reporters and editors who are fluent in Mandarin, as she is, in addition to all her other qualifications. You have only to watch her excellent reports on TV to see that she was clearly quite at home being amongst Chinese citizens and being accepted by them. Bearing in mind the present state of UK/China relations, I would have thought that alone would justify her salary being at least equal to that of the male BBC editors, quite apart from the principle of males and females getting the same salary for the same type of work.
I can only repeat what I wrote in 2010. What do all the BBC editors actually do? Perhaps they are a bit like backbench MPs: they sit around, keeping their beady-eyes on all the competitors and jostling for position with those further up the chain - rather like the Cabinet reshuffles in the last couple of days. However, remember! Only the best should get the best jobs and the appropriate rewards; gender and race should not come into the equation.