The BBC’s highest-paid stars including Jonathan Ross, Terry Wogan and Graham Norton will keep their huge pay packets despite drastic cuts to the corporation’s budget.
The Sunday Telegraph understands that Mark Thompson, the director-general, has ruled out any move to slash salaries of big names for fear that they will defect to ITV.
Mr Thompson is struggling to fill a £2 billion black hole in the BBC’s finances. The loss of up to 2,800 jobs, the sale of assets and a massive reduction in programme budgets are likely.
Ross has a three-year deal worth £18 million, Norton has a £5 million contract and Wogan earns £800,000 a year. Other high earners include the Radio 1 DJs Jo Whiley and Chris Moyles who are reportedly paid £250,000 and £630,000 a year respectively.
Speculation about salary cuts emerged last week when it was claimed that Mr Thompson had called 100 of the corporation’s biggest names to a meeting this Wednesday, when the package of cuts will be signed off by the BBC Trust. Sources insisted last night, however, that only full-time staff got the summons and that most of the highest paid personalities are freelance. The sources claim the meeting is more likely to be a briefing about the cuts in general.
One source, who asked not to be named, said: “Not one of the very high earners or their representatives has been approached on pay. Any self-respecting channel controller would give up the job rather than let the director-general interfere in these kinds of negotiations.”
The last details of the cuts package are still being finalised. Mr Thompson and Sir Michael Lyons, the chairman of the BBC Trust, are due to meet at 7.30am tomorrow to thrash out further details.
The news operation and the corporation’s factual progamming division are expected to be the hardest hit. Managers in BBC News have told staff to brace themselves for around 520 job cuts.
Full details of the proposals will be presented to staff on Thursday.