BBC to Disclose More On-Air Talent Pay Information Under New Government Plan

The Hollywood Reporter

Karen Bradley, Britain's new culture, media and sport secretary, on Thursday published a draft of a new BBC charter that details how the U.K. public broadcaster will be run, and what duties it has, for 11 years starting in 2017.

Its current charter, which was in effect for 10 years, runs through the end of the year.

The draft, which outlines how the BBC is funded, run, overseen and what its main objectives are, follows the May publication of a government white paper that unveiled various planned reforms and measures designed to lessen the impact of the BBC on such commercial rivals as ITV and Sky, on which industry companies and people were able to comment.

Among the more controversial parts of the draft is a clause that calls for increased disclosure of pay for big-name on-air talent.

Funding plans from earlier in the year were confirmed on Thursday. The white paper called for a continuation of BBC funding via a license fee of £145.50 ($192) that taxpayers pay every year and that will increase with inflation starting in 2017 after having been frozen in recent years. The government reiterated though that longer-term, the fee will be reviewed and could be discontinued. Closing a license fee loophole, viewers will have to start paying to access the BBC iPlayer VOD service.

The white paper also confirmed that the BBC Trust governing body would be scrapped in favor of a unitary board for the broadcaster, while U.K. media regulator Ofcom will become the external regulator of the BBC. On Tuesday night, Rona Fairhead announced that she would resign as BBC chair.

Read more: BBC Touts 15 Percent Reduction in Talent Pay

Here some more key points from the charter draft:

- The BBC gets to make the majority of appointments for the new 14-member board, with the government, choosing five of them, including the chair. Five members must be independents, with the four others being BBC executives.

- The BBC would be required to publish the names of the currently 109 on-air hosts and performers, including news anchors, sports announcers, talk show and entertainment show hosts, with salaries in excess of £150,000 ($198,000), with pay initially disclosed in bands of £50,000 ($66,000). Talk show host Graham Norton, former Top Gear host Chris Evans, Strictly Come Dancing host Claudia Winkleman and former soccer star Gary Lineker are among the talent expected to see their pay band disclosed under the new approach.

The original plan for the pay disclosure focused on on-air talent earning more than £450,000 ($595,000) a year. But now that amount has been drastically reduced. The BBC has opposed detailed star pay disclosures, arguing this would give competitors a better idea how to poach top names. Currently, the BBC discloses the amounts received by its highest-paid stars in broad terms and broad bands without details the pay of specific people.

- "Distinctive content" must be at the heart of the BBC programming schedule, the charter says. "It is right that the BBC makes popular programs, but popularity must not be the only measure of success," explained Bradley.

- The charter will run for 11 years, with a "health check" at the half-way mark.

Bradley wrote in an editorial in The Telegraph on Thursday: "Our new charter will make sure the BBC thrives for years to come." Calling it "a cherished British institution," she said the new disclosure requirement for star payments "rightly brings the BBC in line with the rest of the public sector, where civil servants above the threshold are named."

She added: "Making the BBC more open and transparent will help deliver savings that can then be invested in even more great programs like The Great British Bake Off." Channel 4 just secured the hit show in a three-year deal that kicks in after its current season on BBC One ends.

Read more: U.K. Government Unveils 11-Year Plan for "More Distinctive" BBC in "Major Overhaul"