The Government has in its less than infinite wisdom decided that, as part of the BBC’s charter renewal, the salary of anyone there earning over £150,000 must be disclosed. As the Guardian has helpfully revealed, “High-profile BBC journalists and presenters such as Nick Robinson, Laura Kuenssberg and John Humphrys will have their pay made public as part of a plan imposed by the government while it renews the BBC’s royal charter”.
Now, here on Zelo Street the judgment calls made by Ms Kuenssberg have on occasion attracted adverse comment, but what remuneration package she secures as part of being the Beeb’s political editor is her business. Likewise all the other names being advanced, which include Graham Norton, Gary Lineker, Tess Daly, Claudia Winkleman, Fiona Bruce, Kirsty Wark, Jeremy Vine, and a bloke called Chris Evans.
Why this information should have to be divulged has also taxed the Guardian’s Marina Hyde, who has not been backward in coming forward with a trenchantly sceptical take on the whole business. “Who cares what Tess Daly and the Bake Off stars are paid?” is the headline, and she partly answers the question by quoting new Culture Secretary Karen Bradley, who says “Latest data shows that 109 stars currently earn more than that figure … which is just above the prime minister’s salary”. There’s your clue.
Whining that those who work for taxpayer or licence fee funded bodies are paid “more than the Prime Minister” is a staple of the small state lobbyists - such as the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance - which has been picked up by the BBC bashers in the right-leaning press. And that leads us to the most likely source for this action.
Karen Bradley, who, as Ms Hyde puts it, “has risen without trace to become secretary of state for culture, media and sport”, has made her first appointment as a Special Advisor, or SpAd, one Craig Woodhouse. Who was formerly chief political correspondent at the Murdoch Sun, where he had put in just over four years’ service. Ms Bradley appoints Woodhouse, and almost immediately … implements a key Sun agenda item.
Of course, the salary information won’t destroy the BBC overnight; it has to be a gradual chipping away, credibility and stature eroded one brick at a time. The only beneficiaries from this move will be the Beeb-hating press, which will use the information to monster any or all of those involved while using the faux outrage they’ve whipped up to flog a few more papers, all the time slavering over the slow demise of the Corporation.
That will also benefit commercial competitors to the BBC, like … well, what about Sky, 39% owned by the Murdoch mafiosi, who may soon be back for the other 61%? The press have swiftly identified a weak politician and moved to put one of their own in a position to suggest the kinds of ostensibly populist moves to which Ms Bradley appears to be highly susceptible. The Minister for Murdoch is dead, long live the Minister for Murdoch.
I suspect Marina Hyde knows that by now. If not, she soon will do.