Eighteen senior managers at BBC Scotland are to have their pay frozen as part of a cost-saving exercise estimated to be affecting 630 staff, UK-wide, at a saving to the Corporation of £20 million. Some can even expect real reductions in their salary, with any bonuses they might have been banking on to be suspended indefinitely.
The freeze – ordered by BBC Director-General, Mark Thompson – follows a review, agreed in February with the BBC Trust, which acts on behalf of the licence fee payer.
Also among Thompson’s plans is to reduce the number of senior managers at the BBC by 18 per cent within four years: a loss of more than 100 posts.
In a memo to staff, Thompson says: “[The review] was both because of the economic pressures and the need to find savings inside the BBC, but also because of big changes in the wider economy – including a depressed media market, acute financial pressure across the public sector and increased public anxiety about top pay in both public and private enterprises. This is the most detailed review of senior management pay we have ever done.”
The move is on the back of absolute reductions in the fees now being paid to some of the BBC’s top on-screen talent, such as actor, Alan Davies. But the cost-cutting has now been extended to senior staff behind the scenes. Within three years, some of the BBC’s most senior managers will be earning between 15 and 25 per cent less in real terms than they received last year.
Some very senior staff have already been locked into a pay freeze for some time, including BBC Scotland’s Controller, Ken MacQuarrie. They have at least another three years of frozen pay ahead of them.
Thompson was, however, at pains to reassure staff on lower pay scales that they will not be affected.
He continued: “It is important to say, these measures are aimed solely at executive directors and senior managers and there is currently no plan to review pay for Grades 2-11. Do take a moment to look at the detail of the review. One of the things it does is to bust some of the myths about senior pay at the BBC. We already achieve big discounts when you compare senior pay here with similar jobs elsewhere in the media and the wider economy – and that discount grows the higher up the organisation you look. Sometimes people imagine that pay at the BBC is particularly unequal – actually the evidence is that the ratio of top to average pay in the BBC is very much at the lower end of the spectrum. And the review shows that over the past three years we’ve controlled senior pay effectively – as a result, it’s grown significantly less than average pay at the BBC.
“Nonetheless, the whole context for setting senior pay has changed and that is why I believe today’s announcement is justified and represents an appropriate and measured response to the changes in the economy and to the public’s expectations of us.
“At the BBC we have some of the most talented and committed leaders you could find at any broadcaster anywhere in the world or in any British company working for much less pay than they could receive if they were working for somebody else. I know that for some of them, today’s announcement is probably not going to feel very palatable. But you must also know, as I do, that working for the BBC is a unique privilege which brings with it unrivalled creative and management opportunities.
“I believe that the package of measures we’re announcing today is the right way forward for executive pay at the BBC. I also believe that it will enable us to continue to attract and retain the people we need to lead this organisation and to help the whole BBC deliver the best possible services for the public.”