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Publishing BBC stars' pay still on the agenda
Culture secretary says issue of forcing BBC to reveal presenters' salaries will be discussed as part of next licence fee talks



The culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, today said that the issue of forcing the BBC to reveal what it paid top stars such as Graham Norton and Jeremy Clarkson will be discussed as part of the next licence fee settlement.

Hunt added that although the BBC Trust has agreed to allow the National Audit Office to scrutinise the corporation's finances, including talent salaries, the idea of revealing what the corporation pays its top presenters will be discussed separately.

The BBC Trust deal with the NAO will include the corporation providing the parliamentary audit body with details of talent pay, although the agreement is for individual salaries not to be published.

When asked about the issue of star salaries following his Royal Television Society speech today, he said: "It's probably something we'll talk about with the BBC as part of the licence fee discussions."

Hunt added that "how far we go" on the issue "is part of the licence fee discussions", which are due to begin next year.

He said the "primary focus" of the NAO's task is "value for money". But it "might look at a general issue of how much is being paid to stars", though it does "not mean individual salaries will be published".

Hunt added that he has "not specifically" looked at "how that part of the transparency will work" but added that "what they've [the BBC] agreed to do on the NAO is a significant step forward".

He said he wanted to ensure the NAO will "not compromise the editorial independence" of the BBC.

Speaking about the process of finding a replacement for the BBC Trust chairman, Sir Michael Lyons, who is to step down next year, Hunt said it was "not my job to invite people to apply for the role" although he can make recommendations at "a late stage".

"It is very, very important that this is a politically impartial role ... the one thing that's clear is this person will have to have credibility when it comes to the issue of impartiality," he added.

Hunt and the Conservatives have been pressuring the BBC over financial transparency, particularly talent pay, since last year, when the party was in opposition.

The BBC has resisted these calls, insisting that the pay contracts of individual stars are confidential and that publishing them could damage the corporation's ability to attract the best talent.

However, the BBC has sought to allay criticism of its talent costs by publishing salary bands for the pay of top stars.

The most recent concession came in June, when Lyons said he had instructed BBC executives to publish the total amount spent on all on-screen talent in separate payment bands, ranging from under £250,000 to more than £5m, along with the number of people in each band.


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