Jeremy Clarkson has labelled plans to force the BBC to reveal what it pays its top stars “disgusting” and that it stems from people being “obsessed with money”.
Clarkson is referring to a new clause in the BBC’s royal charter, which states the broadcaster must reveal the salaries of all staff earning £150,000 a year. The original threshold was £450,000 but culture secretary Karen Bradley decided the figure should be lower.
Speaking to the Radio Times about his salary for presenting The Grand Tour, the ex-Top Gear star replied: “Take the business of BBC talent. What country are we living in when we want to know how much people are paid? It’s disgusting.
“It’s Tony Hall’s job, as the director general, to say, ‘We’re going to pay that person that much’, and if we trust Tony Hall – and we must, because he’s the director general – then you trust him to be doing a good job.
“You can’t be saying to him, ‘Why are you paying him that?’ Because if you don’t, he’ll go to ITV. It’s absolutely ludicrous. Nobody talks about their earnings. You just don’t do it. I don’t know why it’s interesting what somebody earns.”
109 presenters, journalists and TV stars are said to sit above the £150,000 threshold. Bradley says the move is about value for money, but Hall sees it differently.
“Our position on talent pay has not changed, and all major broadcasters have questioned the merit of the proposal. The BBC is already incredibly transparent and we publish what we spend on talent pay – a bill which has fallen in recent years,” he said.
“The BBC operates in a competitive market, and this will not make it easier for the BBC to retain the talent the public love. Ultimately, the BBC should be judged on the quality of its programmes,” he added.
Clarkson went on to mention mention the BBC was easy to deal with, but not ex-BBC director of TV, Danny Cohen.
“Everyone thinks that the BBC was a bloody nightmare. It wasn’t. Cohen was,” Clarkson said. “The BBC was brilliant to work for until the arrival of Mr Cohen. [The BBC] never really interfered at all. But he was a bloody nuisance and caused me enormous amounts of stress.”
Top Gear‘s more controversial moments came up and it was revealed Clarkson regretted his comments about Mexicans being “feckless, flatulent and lazy”.
“Genuinely, if I look back at all the Top Gear Wikipedia sections marked ‘controversy’, then Mexico is the one where we definitely got it wrong. I went to see the Mexican ambassador and apologised to him. I didn’t have to, the Beeb didn’t tell me to, but it was out of order.
“If you’re writing thousands and thousands of words and doing hours and hours of television, then occasionally you will tread on a landmine. So we went down and said we were really sorry and got absolutely paralytic on tequila with him. That was a good day.”
While critics will focus on the fact Clarkson was once the highest paid BBC employee and is a multi-millionaire, he makes a valid point. Too much transparency gives rival channels with deeper pockets an advantage.
As we have seen with The Great British Bake Off, talent tends to follow the money, which is in shorter supply at the BBC. In the long-run it will starve the BBC of quality content – and so the likes of Planet Earth 2 could become a thing of the past, which would be a shame, if you ask us.
Clarkson, Hammond and May will be back doing what they do best in their new motoring show. Here is exactly how to watch The Grand Tour and the release date.