BBC iPlayer License Fee Revealed In White Paper 2016, Top Earners To Publish Pay, But Strictly Schedule Saved

Details have finally emerged.

12/05/2016 09:29 | Updated 12 May 2016

BBC stars earning over £450,000 will be forced to reveal their salaries but the corporation won't be required to adjust its schedules or 'top slice' the licence fee to other broadcasters, the Government announced today. 

However the BBC will be regulated by an external organisation for the first time in its 90-year history.

The changes are contained in a long-awaited White Paper on the BBC's future, which also includes plans to increase the licence fee and charge people to watch programmes on iPlayer.

Governing body the BBC Trust will be abolished and replaced by a new committee to run day-to-day matters, while Ofcom will become its external regulator. 

Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive
Rona Fairhead, chair of the BBC Trust, will have her position abolished when her term expires in 2018

The corporation's charter will also be renewed every 11 years, rather than 10, so negotiations over it are independent of the political cycle. It will be subject to a "health check" every five years.

The's own BBC media correspondent, David Sillito, told Radio 4's Today programme that broadcast schedules and the licence fee appeared to have largely been left alone:

"No sign yet of 'top slicing' - giving money away to other rival broadcasters. No mention of meddling in the schedules - telling the BBC when it can or can't put Strictly Come Dancing on on a Saturday night."

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale outlined the full proposals in parliament Thursday morning.

Key points from today's White Paper:

  • The licence fee, currently £145.50 a year, will run for another 11 years and rise in line with inflation from 2017 until 2022

  • All stars earning over £450,000 will be forced to reveal their salaries

  • A new governing board to replace the Trust, with over half of its members appointed by the broadcaster

  • Ofcom will become BBC's new regulator

  • Extend charter renewal to 11 years to avoid it clashing with general election campaigns

  • Put diversity at the heart of the BBC's charter

Ministers are closing a loophole that meant Brits could previously avoid paying the licence fee by only watching programmes on iPlayer, extending the licence to include all catch-up services. 

They will also order an increase in the annual fee, seeing the current amount of £145.50 rise in line with inflation from 2017 until 2022. 

"This will give the BBC the financial certainty it needs and increase its independence from government," the paper claims.

Edward Smith/EMPICS Entertainment
iPlayer watchers will now face having to pay the licence fee

TV stars paid over £450,000, likely to include Gary Lineker, Chris Evans and Graham Norton, will also be forced to disclose their salaries.

The BBC currently only reveals limited information about the pay of its on-screen personalities; in 2015, the corporation said there were nine people who appeared on-air who were paid more than £500,000.

Recipes were also rumoured to face the axe from the BBC's website, after Chancellor George Osborne said the size of the online cooking section was a reflection of the broadcaster overreaching. 

“If you’ve got a website that’s got features and cooking recipes – effectively the BBC website becomes the national newspaper as well as the national broadcaster,” he said in a speech last year.

No word has yet been issued on whether recipes will be chopped, but a BBC spokesperson said today that such claims were merely "speculation".

Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Culture Secretary John Whittingdale revealed further details on the BBC White Paper today.

Reaction to the White Paper has been mixed, with most pundits concluding that its proposals were less extreme than expected.

A government insider quoted in the Guardian said: “The aim is for this to land somewhere in the middle. Fundamentalists will say this is a terrible assault on the BBC. The right wing of the Tory party will say it doesn’t go far enough.”

Brian Cox, who co-presents the BBC's 'Stargazing Live', spoke out against the original plans for the Government to appoint over half of those sitting on the corporation's new governing board.

While journalist Ian Dunt claimed the finished White Paper appeared to have been "stripped of the more dangerous fantasies of its author".

But journalism professor Lis Howell told BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme that while the White Paper was "sensible", it would leave "a lot of disappointed luvvies in search of a cause". 

Spectator editor Fraser Nelson also speculated that David Cameron was in fact "quite happy" with the BBC and "baffled" by some of his colleagues who "loathe it".

In a piece for the Telegraph the columnist added that "Cameron can’t be bothered to take on the BBC" and suggested "the hardest questions that the BBC needs to address will be left for another time".

It comes after James Cordon, who starred in hit comedy 'Gavin and Stacey', spoke out last night in defence of the BBC, calling it a "fundamental cornerstone of everything Britain stands for".

The actor said:  "It is freedom of speech at its greatest.

"I consider it to be part of the foundation of all that is good in Britain. I fear for what life's like without it. I can't even begin to imagine it."

Here are eight things the White Paper could be about to stop the BBC from doing:

  • 8 Keep a huge vault of online recipes
    According to The Telegraph, the BBC could be made to axe nearly all of the more than 11,000 recipes on its website as part of a drive to clamp down on services provided elsewhere.
    Only recipes linked to recently broadcast shows will remain, the paper said.
  • 7 Do lighter news stories
    BBC News
    BBC News' domestic online coverage has been criticised for competing unfairly with under-pressure local newspapers. Lord Hall is expected to pledge to cut the lighter news items and commit the corporation to focussing more on video and a "core news service", according to The Telegraph.
    The paper quoted a speech by BBC Trust member Richard Ayre, who said the BBC should ditch "the magazine content, the celebrity gossip, the skateboarding ducks, the games and the puzzles to other providers, who frankly can do it just as well, or better”.
  • 6 Make entertainment programmes deemed not 'value for money'
    Katja Ogrin/EMPICS Entertainment
    Flagship entertainment shows like Strictly Come Dancing (live tour pictured) and dramas like The Night Manager could be subject to 'value for money' audits, The Guardian reported.
  • 5 Give people travel information
    You can still go to the Highways Agency website or, er, Google Maps, to find out what the traffic is like.
  • 4 Schedule flagship entertainment at the time flagship entertainment is normally shown
    Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
    The White Paper will suggest the BBC should stop showing popular programmes at peak times, The Sunday Times has reported. This followed a ratings war with ITV when the BBC put Strictly Come Dancing on at the same time as The X Factor. John Whittingdale has also suggested the News At Ten could be shown at a different time to avoid a clash with the commercial rival.
  • 3 Not tell you exactly how much its top talent earns
    Matt Crossick/PA Wire
    Household names like chat show host Graham Norton (pictured) could have their salaries published, as the plans include releasing details of everyone paid more than £150,000 a year. This would include people in news and current affairs, as well as those in light entertainment.
  • 2 Keep the licence fee to itself
    Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
    The £3.7 billion the BBC collects in licence fee payments could be shared with other broadcasters in some areas, such as children's television. This so-called 'top slicing' has triggered "a panicked and furious" lobbying effort from the BBC, The Telegraph reported.
  • 1 Regulate itself
    Adrian Dennis/PA Wire
    The BBC Trust (chair Rona Fairhead pictured) looks set to be abolished and replaced with a BBC Board and regulation would be handed to media watchdog Ofcom. The board's chair and vice-chair would be government appointees. In a speech in April, journalist and broadcaster Phil Harding said this would put the BBC on "the slippery slope towards becoming a state broadcaster". 
    He said: "The people who are supposed to safeguard the editorial independence of the BBC – to safeguard it from, among other things, government interference – are going to be appointed by the same government that they are supposed to be protecting the BBC from."
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