Gary Lineker remains BBC’s highest paid presenter

<span>Photograph: Can Nguyen/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Can Nguyen/Rex/Shutterstock

Gary Lineker remains the BBC’s highest-paid presenter, while the continued exodus of big-name stars from the broadcaster has led to the removal of some big salaries from the payroll.

Lineker was paid £1.35m last year for hosting Match of the Day and coverage of Euro 2020, putting him comfortably ahead of the Radio 2 breakfast show host Zoe Ball in second place on £980,000.

Other top earners disclosed in the corporation’s annual report include Lineker’s Match of the Day colleague Alan Shearer on £450,000, the BBC Northern Ireland presenter Stephen Nolan on £415,000, and the News at Ten host Huw Edwards on £410,000. Several stars received pay rises, including an extra £80,000 for Radio 1’s Greg James.

Several of those on the highest-paid list for 2021 have since departed the BBC to join commercial rivals, freeing up Dan Walker’s £220,000 salary, the £325,000 paid to Emily Maitlis, and the £225,000 a year salary of the former North America editor Jon Sopel.

The BBC director general, Tim Davie, whose pay increased 10% to £522,000, said overall spending on top presenters had stayed largely static despite competition from commercial rivals. “People want to see the best people presenting and delivering for the BBC,” he said.

Ever since the BBC was required by the government to reveal the salaries of its highest-paid stars, it has been desperately trying to negotiate down pay and move on some of its biggest earners, amid a backdrop of continued real-terms cuts to the licence fee.

Actors and presenters working on dramas and light entertainment shows for the BBC’s commercial production division are excluded from the figures – meaning Fiona Bruce’s stated salary of £410,000 covers only her work on Question Time and presenting news bulletins, and excludes the unknown sum she receives for presenting Antiques Roadshow.

Many off-air staff have lost their jobs as a result of the reduced budgets. The corporation has spent £125m in redundancy payments over the last two years as many long-serving staff took generous payouts as part of Davie’s drive to reduce the headcount by thousands.

The annual report also contains worrying signs that the broadcaster’s reach among younger, poorer, and ethnically diverse audiences is not improving. This could undermine the case for the £159 universal licence fee, which provides most of the funding for the BBC’s operations and is under review by the government.

While 90% of British adults use BBC services at least once a week, these tend to be older and wealthier people, who are often heavy consumers of the BBC’s traditional television and radio services. Among children under 16 – who have grown up with streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube as standard options – just 73% use BBC services in an average week.

The BBC is attempting to fight back by closing broadcast television and radio channels and moving funding into its iPlayer and Sounds streaming services, which have both grown substantially in the last 12 months but are playing catch-up with commercial rivals such as Netflix.

Just 46% of Britons aged 16-34 watch any BBC television in a given week. BBC Sounds has 570,000 weekly users aged 16-34, a year-on-year fall, despite the BBC investing heavily in youth-focused podcasts for the service.

Davie has publicly committed the BBC to a relentless impartiality drive and social media crackdown, after criticism from the Tory government of perceived leftwing bias at the broadcaster. He denied this amounted to an “anti-woke” policy that could alienate younger audiences.

“We want to deliver impartiality and facilitate debate, be fair across the board, and be a guardian of truth … I don’t think it’s an anti-woke agenda, I think it’s an agenda to try and find the truth,” he said.

Davie added: “I think it puts us in a stronger position rather than a weaker position with young audiences – they’re surrounded by things that are full of opinion. What we need to do is make sure we’ve giving them the right content in the right format.”

The BBC’s top on-air earners

1. Gary Lineker: £1.35m
2. Zoe Ball: £980,000
=3. Alan Shearer: £450,000
=3. Steve Wright: £450,000
5. Stephen Nolan: £415,000
=6. Huw Edwards: £410,000
=6. Fiona Bruce: £410,000
=8. Scott Mills: £400,000
=8. Vanessa Feltz: £400,000
10. Greg James: £390,000
11. Ken Bruce: £385,000
12. Lauren Laverne: £380,000
13. Naga Munchetty: £365,000
=14. Amol Rajan: £325,000
=14. George Alagiah: £325,000
=14. Emily Maitlis: £325,000