BBC cuts top talent pay bill

Savings helped by Jeremy Clarkson's departure

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA- MARCH 20: Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May from the BBC TopGear show arrive at the Top

The BBC has cut the amount it pays to its top talent by £8 million over the last year - thank in part to the departure of Jeremy Clarkson.

The number of people earning between £500,000 and £5 million fell from nine to seven in the last financial year, director general Lord Tony Hall told MPs yesterday.

"We will be revealing in the annual report that we have reduced the total amount of spending on talent by £8 million overall, on an apples for apples basis, roughly 4% between 2015/16 and 2014/15," he told the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

"This is really important. We have reduced the top pay of talent over £500,000 by £5 million - 25%. We absolutely get this is an important issue for the public to be aware of how we spend our money."

The BBC doesn't currently publish individual salaries for its on-screen talent. However, under plans set out in a government white paper earlier this year, presenters earning more than Lord Hall's own salary - £450,000 - would be named.

However, Lord Hall says this could lead to a 'poachers' charter' that would leave the corporation 'open to people nicking them from the BBC'.

After agreeing a deal with the government last year, the BBC is committed to finding savings of £800 million a year to help fund free licences for over-75-year-olds from 2020.

A good part of these latest savings are likely to have stemmed from the sacking of Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson last March, followed by the departure of co-presenters Richard Hammond and James May.

Chris Evans - the Radio 2 breakfast show DJ and the new face of Top Gear - is now believed to be the BBC's best-paid presenter, earning as much as £1.5 million a year. His role on Top Gear has received a critical drubbing, but the show's put on an extra 300,000 viewers compared with last week.

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