The BBC published details of talent and executives earning more than £150,000 in its annual report last Wednesday, including its top-paid presenter Chris Evans, who earns more than £2.2m, to an immediate storm of protest.
A poll of 1,000 adults across the UK on Monday (24 July) for PRWeek, by digital insights company Toluna, found that 83 per cent of those surveyed thought salaries for the best-paid talent and employees at the BBC are excessive.
In the wake of the storm surrounding BBC pay, it was reported by some media that ITV presenters Ant & Dec earn £30m a year, more than all of the BBC’s 96 top-paid staff combined.
The BBC must compete with other broadcasters, including ITV, Sky, C4 and Netflix in order to attract top talent and the Corporation’s own research – a Mori poll of 1,000 people – suggested that 80 per cent of the public think it should be able to pay for highest quality talent for its programmes.
However, when Toluna asked respondents whether they thought salaries for the best-paid talent and employees at the BBC are excessive compared with those at other television stations, 61 per cent said they were, while 39 per cent said they were not.
And BBC messaging and statements following the pay revelations do not appear to have achieved the necessary cut-through, according to the survey, with 76 per cent of respondents saying they did not think the Corporation had properly explained its reasons for the salaries it pays top talent.
There was also anger over the gender pay gap between BBC talent after it emerged that two thirds of its top paid stars were men, with Claudia Winkleman its highest-paid female celebrity, earning more than £400,000.
More than 40 female BBC stars signed an open letter to BBC director general Tony Hall earier this week calling on him to act now to close the gender pay gap.
The BBC’s gender pay gap stands at 10 per cent, compared with the national average of 18 per cent.
Asked if they thought the gap between salaries earned by men and women at the BBC was fair, 83 per cent said it was not.
Ahead of the publication of its salary figures, the broadcaster sought to engage people by admitting it had a problem with its gender pay gap, but that it was already making significant progress and that it would close it by 2020.
But, once again, the Corporation’s messaging appeared to be falling on deaf ears, with 82 per cent of respondents saying they did not think the BBC had explained how it is addressing the gender pay gap.