Highest paying jobs in media: UK top 50 earners revealed

UK News Media Rich List: Top 50 highest-earning execs revealed

As Reach reported a 700% rise in remuneration for its two top execs this month, Press Gazette has put together a unique ranking revealing the highest paid jobs in media.

Our research found that Reach chief executive Jim Mullen and chief financial officer Simon Fuller are well paid by UK news industry standards – but far from the top of our list.

The Press Gazette News Media Rich List comprises the top-50 best paid executives at UK news media publishers and broadcasters in the UK where public data is available.

Key revelations include:

  • Daily Mail owner DMGT paid the most to its executives, with chairman Lord Rothermere grossing £10.91m, chief executive Paul Zwillenberg paid £9.72m and chief financial officer Tim Collier paid £6.6m in 2021
  • 17 media bosses at 12 companies grossed more than £1m in remuneration last year
  • Despite running the biggest media organisation in the UK, BBC director-general Tim Davie’s £525,000 salary put him 34th on the list
  • Looking at industry sectors, national news had the highest median average salary at £1.3m, followed by magazines at just over £824,000, B2B at just over £822,000, and then broadcast at £525,000. There were not enough executives on the list working in regional or radio news to create a meaningful average
  • Only 36% of the named executives in our top-50 list are female. The mean average salary for named female executives on the list was £1.41m, versus £2.5m for their male counterparts.

Note: For 11 entries on our top-50 list we only know that the salary is for the highest-paid executive at the company, according to latest ltd company accounts – in these cases they are listed as N/A.

Highest paid UK media jobs: research methodology

To make the News Media Rich List, Press Gazette manually searched through the accounts of the UK's biggest news media companies. For each, we have used the most up-to-date pay information available. Some companies have only published information covering 2020, while others published full accounts for the financial year up to April 2021 or beyond.

Publicly-traded companies have to disclose executive pay in their annual financial reports, making it easier to identify the pay of their directors.

UK private companies disclose the amount received by the highest-paid director in their Companies House filings, but they do not have to identify that executive or report the pay packages of other individual executives. Unlike other media groups, the BBC discloses the pay of any senior managers earning more than £150,000, and any who qualified for the top 50 were included in the list.

Highly-paid executives from several companies (such as Sky) do not feature on the list for a variety of reasons, including that they were registered abroad, were too new to file financial information or had not disclosed director pay in their Companies House accounts.

If you believe any companies have been left out, please let us know by emailing andrew.kersley@pressgazette.co.uk.

The list only covers the top executives at companies and does not include the pay of talent. So top BBC journalists, such as Huw Edwards who is paid £430,000, are not on the list. Similarly, high earners like Piers Morgan (reportedly paid £15m+ a year by News UK) are not on the list because they do not appear in publicly available accounts.

Editors are only included in cases where they served on the executive board of the outlets in question and so have publicly-disclosed salaries..

Several executives on the list have left their respective companies since these reports came out – including Annette Thomas, who left The Guardian in June 2021 reportedly after a dispute with editor-in-chief Katharine Viner.

Who had the biggest pay increases or decreases?

Many outlets saw a decrease in executive pay in 2020 as revenues were hit by the pandemic, though many then saw large increases in pay in figures for 2021. In the companies where executive pay was slashed between 2019 and 2020, the reason usually lay with executives taking voluntary pay cuts to help deal with the impact of the pandemic.

Reach chief executive Jim Mullen and chief financial officer Simon Fuller both saw their overall pay package increase by over 700% between 2020 and 2021. Mullen’s total remuneration package (including long-term incentives) in 2020 was £485,000, while in 2021 it was £4,089,000.

Reach's NUJ national coordinator Chris Morley highlighted that Mullen’s £4m pay package was “the highest award to the most senior executive in the company in the last decade” and said the move was “massively widening inequality in the company”.

One of the next largest jumps in remuneration came from Future’s Zillah Byng-Thorne who saw her total remuneration for the 2020/2021 financial year more than double, from £3.6m the year before to £8.8m.

In February, shareholders voted 55% to 45% against Future’s executive pay and bonus scheme, or Value Creation Plan, citing worries about excessive executive pay. While chief executive Byng-Thorne earned £8.8m last year, she could net as much as £40m if she hits the targets set for shareholder returns.

DMGT’s chair and its chief executive also saw a big increase to their remuneration, from £7.59m and £7.34m to £10.91m and £9.72m respectively.

Because several of the companies on the list, including DMGT and Future, are publicly traded, a large amount of executive remuneration comes from bonuses paid in the form of shares. Some £8.2m worth of Lord Rothermere's pay was from long-term incentives that usually come in the form of shares rather than cash.

Rothermere's pay was broken down as follows: a base salary of £875,000, a 166% bonus of £1.45m, £3.75m in pension and taxable benefits, and £8.21m in long-term incentives.

DMGT chief executive Paul Zwillenberg's base pay was £784,000, while he received £1.301m in bonuses, £278,000 in benefits, and £7.357m in long-term incentives.

For Future's Byng-Thorne, her base pay was £575,000, while receiving £84,000 in pension and taxable benefits, £1.15m in bonuses, and £7.03m in performance-related share awards.

At culture and entertainment magazine Time Out, chief executive Julio Bruno went from earning £840,000 in the calendar year of 2019 to receiving £468,000 in total remuneration between January 2020 and June 2021.

News UK chief executive Rebekah Brooks received £2.442m in 2020, but was paid £3.609m the year after. Murdoch-owned News UK currently runs The Times and its sister radio station Times Radio, The Sun, Talkradio and the upcoming TalkTV.

One of the reasons some newspapers like The Guardian have lower executive pay and bonuses compared to similar large publishers is because they enforce a rule to ensure executives can only earn a certain amount more than the median salary at the company. Last year, CEO Annette Thomas was paid £616,105 which was said to be ten times the median salary at Guardian Media Group.

Which executives took pay cuts?

As well as those listed in the chart above as taking a pay cut, several news executives took pay cuts in 2020 as a result of the pandemic before seeing pay increases in 2021.

Executives at RELX, Future and Euromoney all took reductions in their pay package in 2020, although at Future the salary decrease was far smaller than the subsequent increase Byng-Thorne received in 2021.

Pictures: Reuters, Neil Hall, Olivia Harris, Francois Lenoir, Channel 4, Suzanne Plunkett, The Guardian, Future, Reach

Pictured, from the top left: DMGT chairman Lord Rothermere, BBC director general Tim Davie, News UK chief executive Rebekah Brooks, ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall, Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon, FT chief executive John Ridding, former Guardian chief executive Annette Thomas, Future chief executive Zillah Byng-Thorne and Reach chief executive Jim Mullen.

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