Salaries Debate Reveals Split Opinions at TV Festival

TV executives and the general public are at odds on various issues; perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the opening sessions of the Edinburgh International TV Festival was a case in point: the salaries being paid to top TV personalities – writes Kirsty Cunningham.

Says a YouGov survey of 2000 people, only nine per cent believe Jonathan Ross's salary is justified. While 93 per cent of the sample believe Premiership footballers are overpaid, some 80 are also of the view that 'TV personalities' should be similarly paid less.

Chaired by Nicky Campbell, the session aimed to debate whether today’s big TV names deserve their high salaries, and if we, as viewers, have a right to know exactly how much they are paid.

Graham Stuart, director of So Television, led the support for presenter salaries with the argument that TV stars are at the heart of television and “keep the industry alive”, thus justifying their high rates of pay. ITV’s Director of Television Peter Fincham agreed, emphasising that commercial channels in particular are happy to pay generously those personalities who are loved by a large audience.

But the BBC came under fire, by the Shadow Minister for Culture, Ed Vaizey, who argued against the Corporation’s policy of keeping its employees’ salaries confidential. He was in a minority; indeed, the mood of the audience was at variance not just with him but the general public. Just as the YouGov poll had 69 per cent of the survey sample saying the pay packets of TV executives are excessive, so 82 per cent also want transparency.

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