Gary Lineker has taken a £400,000 pay cut to remain as host of Match of the Day for the next five years, along with an agreement to be more careful in his use of Twitter to push political causes.
Tim Davie, the new BBC director general, announced the deal at the launch of the corporation’s annual report, emphasising that all BBC staff would be bound by strict new social media guidelines within weeks.
Lineker, who earlier this year suggested it was time to make the BBC licence fee voluntary, took home £1.75m in the last financial year, well ahead of any other employee. He has attracted the ire of rightwing media outlets for tweeting criticism of the government and Brexit.
“Gary knows that he has responsibilities to the BBC in terms of his use of social media,” said Davie, referring to the new social media rules for employees.
The pay cut will put Lineker level with Zoe Ball, who was paid £1.36m last year – a pay rise of £1m after she took over the Radio 2 breakfast show, which has lost a million listeners but remains the UK’s most popular radio programme.
The annual report, which includes the salaries of all staff earning more than £150,000, reveals substantial pay increases for many other prominent women.
Lauren Laverne’s income was substantially boosted, to £395,000, by her promotion to become 6 Music’s lead presenter. There was also a hefty pay rise for Fiona Bruce, who took home £450,000 after becoming the presenter of Question Time. Emily Maitlis, who three years ago was excluded from the high-payer list altogether, now earns £375,000 a year after becoming the lead presenter on Newsnight.
The figures cover only earnings from the BBC’s public service output, meaning it is dominated by news and sport presenters. The decision to exclude staff who work for BBC Studios – the corporation’s for-profit programme-making arm – means pay on many popular shows such as Casualty or Strictly Come Dancing is kept secret.
The annual report also reveals the BBC missed its own target to have 15% of leadership positions held by black, Asian and minority ethnic staff by 2020, amid concerns among staff about the career progression of non-white people within the organisation.
On-screen representation of BAME people is up to 27% of all BBC contributors, but among the staff who help programmes get on air it remains below 10%. A similar pattern can be seen in audience figures, with the BBC admitting that its content less likely to be viewed by BAME audiences.
Davie emphasised he would impose new measures to boost the perception of the BBC as an impartial news outlet, especially around the Twitter activity of news reporters. He confirmed there would be fresh guidelines for all BBC employees within weeks, with even stricter rules for anyone involved in the BBC’s news output.
The annual report also reveals that the BBC is facing substantial financial pressures. There has been another small drop in the number of British homes paying for a television licence, even though the number of households in the UK continues to rise – suggesting licence fee evasion is increasing.
The BBC has also admitted it is now seen as second best for streaming content among some parts of the public: “Netflix is often seen to be the market leader by younger audience members … iPlayer is generally valued, but it is usually used to find something they already know about rather than as a destination.”
Viewing of traditional television channels continues to fall heavily, although the BBC claimed that for the first time streaming viewing on iPlayer is starting to replace these lost audiences.
Davie also insisted that he did not cave to pressure from right-wing media outlets and the government when he decided to reinstate the lyrics to Rule, Britannia! at the Last Night of the Proms: “That was a decision that I took with the input of others but it was a BBC decision. Judge me by my actions. The BBC is an independent impartial broadcaster, we have a strong editorial view. We’re definitely not going to be caving in to external pressure.”
The BBC’s top earners
1 Gary Lineker – £1.75m
2 Zoe Ball – £1.36m
3 Graham Norton – £725,000
4 Steve Wright – £475,000
5 Huw Edwards – £465,000
6 Fiona Bruce – £450,000
7 Vanessa Feltz – £405,000
8 Lauren Laverne – £395,000
9 Alan Shearer – £390,000
10 Stephen Nolan – £390,000