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February 14, 2022updated 30 Sep 2022 11:02am

23 of the BBC’s highest-paid journalists topped up their salaries with outside gigs in 2021

By Aisha Majid

The BBC’s on-air journalists, including 23 of its highest-paid stars, took on almost 480 external jobs between them in 2021, according to the latest data on BBC external staff earnings.

According to Press Gazette’s calculations based on the limited data published by the BBC, this could have netted the 176 names that appeared on the list in 2021 a combined sum of more than £1m.

Some of the BBC’s best-paid stars, among them Mark Easton (pictured, right), Justin Webb (left) and Naga Munchetty, regularly took on outside work. Some 23 from the list of journalists who earn more than £150,000 had external engagements in 2021.

BBC News home editor Easton took on more appearances than any other high earner – 15 during the year – which could have made him an additional £32,000 (£10,000 at minimum) on top of his almost £200,000 salary by our mid-range estimations.

The Today programme’s Webb, who is paid at least £255,000 by the corporation, could have netted a further £75,5000 (minimum £45,000) through side gigs- more than anyone else on the list.

The highest-paid BBC journalist, News at Ten’s Huw Edwards who makes at least £425,000 each year from his BBC work, took on four further roles, including at events by the British Insurance Brokers' Association and Centaur Media.

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Emily Maitlis, a presenter of Newsnight, may have topped up her £325,000+ salary with more than £57,000 from five events, including an event for healthcare finance management professionals in December.

Mastermind host Clive Myrie meanwhile was paid more than £15,000 for hosting an event for The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners in November. The previous month he made £5,000 to £10,000 for presenting an award on behalf of the National Lottery in October.

Together the 23 high-paid journalists undertook more than 90 appearances between them in 2021.

Since January 2021 the BBC’s on-air presenters in current affairs, sports news and radio and senior leaders have had to declare earnings from paid external work.

As the BBC only provides ranges within which how much each presenter was paid, Press Gazette has extrapolated from the limited given information how much each presenter might have made.

To get to our estimate for the first half of the year, when the BBC only revealed whether a presenter was paid more or less than £5,000, we assumed that engagements under the lower band paid £1,000, while higher-earning engagements paid £10,000.

We then combined this with more detailed data the BBC provided for the final two quarters, mostly taking the middle of each range. For engagements that paid under £1,000 we used a figure of £500, for those paying £1,000 to £5,000 we used £3,000, while for those from £5,000 to £10,000 we calculated on the basis of a £7,500 payment. For the events that paid upwards of £10,000, we used a fee of £15,000.

The lack of specific data means, however, that our overall totals and those for individual presenters are only ballpark estimates.

Apart from predictable slumps in appearances during the summer months and December, the number of outside jobs taken on by on-air staff broadly increased over the year. November saw the highest number of outside gigs of any month in the year (85).

But despite a quiet December for outside gigs, the last quarter may have been the most profitable. The BBC’s on-air journalists may have made more than £450,000  between them in Q4 from external work - almost twice the £231,000 we estimated for Q3 using the same methodology. Even on the most conservative estimate possible, BBC journalists would still have netted £215,000 in the final three months of 2021.

The BBC said its data for the fourth-quarter show that 55% of external events involved payments of less than £1,000 while 86% were paid below £5,000.

Of all the 170 names on the register, Newshour presenter Razia Iqbal and Easton made the most appearances during the year, taking on 16 and 15 outside gigs respectively. They were two of six names, also including Mark Simpson and Myrie, who undertook external work more than ten times during the year.

The publication of this register is part of the BBC’s impartiality efforts. Staff cannot take on external work without written approval from a divisional head of department.

Picture: BBC

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