Media Lifeline: BBC Radio

It has been a tough few years for Auntie, not helped by Sachsgate, tabloid leaks and the dreaded recession.

April 2006: The tabloids publish the alleged salaries of the BBC's highest earning radio presenters. Radio 2 star Jonathan Ross is on £530,000 - yet he manages to up his pay even further with a three-year BBC TV deal worth £18 million.

July 2007: In a thematically complex speech of ornate narrative sophistication, the BBC director general Mark Thompson contrives to argue that the BBC should be seeking to cut costs while at the same time being unafraid of generous tendencies when it comes to top talent pay. "We will continue to retain a handful of top artists because the British public wants the BBC to bring them the best original entertainment," he explains.

November 2007: But this is by no means a unanimous BBC line, as is revealed when the chairman of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons, addressing a gathering of the Royal Television Society, argues it is time the corporation stood up to the stars' outrageous demands for massive wages. "It is important that the BBC does not use the privilege of a guaranteed income to overbid for talent," he avers.

June 2008: So he's rather pleased when a review finds that the BBC is not systematically inflating talent costs in either radio or TV. "There is no evidence that the BBC is paying more than the market price for leading TV talent when it finds itself competing with rivals to secure their services," says the report, adding rather optimistically: "In some cases, it may well be paying less than the market price for that talent."

June 2009: But this is an issue that just will not go away - and resentment is stoked by the economic downturn and by scandals like the Sachsgate affair when Ross and Russell Brand leave vile messages on the answering machine of actor Andrew Sachs.

Fast forward

April 2010: The collapse of original non-sports radio and TV production in the commercial sector - thanks to the recession - means the BBC has a clear run at the market and its talent bill is expected to fall. Sadly, as shown by Ross' new £50 million contract, the reverse happens. A House of Commons committee demands an explanation and the new BBC deputy director general, Rowan Atkinson, mimes a reply in the style of Mr Bean.

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