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July 6, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:25am

BBC Annual Report 2021: Pay for top journalists up 3% as 52 earn more than £150k a year

By Charlotte Tobitt

The BBC annual report shows that 52 journalists at the corporation are paid more than £150,000 a year.

The BBC has cut spend on its top talent by 10% in total in the past year. However, salary spend for its top-earning on-air journalists has risen by approximately 3%.

Press Gazette’s calculations show approximately £9.8m was spent on the BBC’s journalists who earn at least £150,000 in 2020/2021. The year before this was £9.47m.

Including the £2.7m paid to news and current affairs senior executives who are paid above £150,000 (also listed below) this increases to £12.5m.

Huw Edwards (pictured) remains the BBC’s best-paid journalist, as he has been since 2018, despite a salary drop of about 9% in the 2020/21 financial year ending on 31 March.

Scroll down for the full list of the BBC’s top-earning journalists

Note: The BBC only reveals that pay lies within a £5k pay band. So in order to make year on year comparisons, Press Gazette has compared the upper figure for the year to March 2020 with the upper figure for the year to March 2021. Year-on-year changes are therefore approximate.

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The latest BBC annual report shows economics editor Faisal Islam went from the £155,000 – £159,999 salary band to between £205,000 and £209,999 – however this is because he only joined the BBC in the 2019/20 financial year and so the latest figure was his first full year in the role.

BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty therefore received the biggest pay rise of 30%, going from £195,000 – £199,999 to £255,000– £259,999.

Victoria Derbyshire had the biggest pay cut, going from the £215,000 – £219,999 band to between £170,000-£174,999. Her eponymous BBC Two show was cancelled in March 2020 and she now presents BBC News.

Neither BBC medical editor Fergus Walsh nor health editor Hugh Pym appeared on the list of earners over £150,000 despite their prominence during the Covid-19 pandemic.

BBC Radio 2 presenter Zoe Ball, the second biggest on-air earner across the BBC after Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker, contributed to the total spend reduction of 10% by taking a voluntary pay cut.

She was said to have felt uncomfortable about her £1.13m salary in the current climate and her new salary, £980,000, is not yet reflected in the report.

[Read more: Previous lists of top-earning BBC journalists from 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020]

Asked about the talent pay cuts at a press briefing on Tuesday morning, BBC director-general Tim Davie said: “I think everyone recognises the strategy which is getting value to audiences and most conversations are mutual and constructive.

“Clearly as a management team we want to get more value and we are willing to make tough decisions to that extent, but I think these conversations have all been constructive, as with Zoe Ball where she came forward and said she wanted to adjust her salary. I think everyone is absolutely with the programme on that one.”

Asked if the total talent spend was down because of Covid-induced delays last year to major events like Wimbledon, and with no major elections to cover, Davie said: “Overall most of the declines if you look at them are structural, either renegotiations – there was quite a lot in terms of little reductions with things like election coverage or not, but overall I think we should maintain restraint in pay across the top talent regardless of the shape of the year.”

The report did warn however that more people are likely to appear on the top-earners lists over time as the BBC operates in “extremely competitive markets for talent, with inflation levels for pay often well above the average for the UK economy”.

The BBC also revealed it has closed a total of 1,331 pay cases since 2017,with only seven active formal pay cases at this time.

Its median gender pay gap has closed further from 9.3% in 2017 to 6.2% in 2020 to 5.2% this year. The national average is 15.5%.

It said its pay gap for black, Asian and minority ethnic staff remains close to 0%.

See below for the top-earning on-air BBC journalists in the 2020/21 financial year – we have included the on-air news and current affairs staff as categorised by the BBC, plus radio broadcasters Stephen Nolan, Jeremy Vine, Nicky Campbell and Rachel Burden.

The list only includes payment from licence fee revenue and excludes any payment for programmes produced by the BBC’s commercial arm BBC Studios.

*Faisal Islam's first full year at the BBC was 2020/21, meaning his previous year's salary was incomplete.

The 14 BBC News managers paid more than £150,000 a year includes 12 in editorial roles

BBC executive Role Salary band
Fran Unsworth Director, news and current affairs £342,000
Kamal Ahmed Editorial director £205,000-£209,999
Jamie Angus Director, World Service Group £200,000-£204,999
Alan Dickson Chief financial and operating officer £200,000 – £204,999
Gavin Allen Head of news programmes £185,000-£189,999
Jonathan Munro Head of newsgathering £185,000-£189,999
David Jordan Director, editorial policy and standards £181,000
Naja Neilsen Senior news controller £180,000-£184,999
Mary Hockaday Controller, World Service English £170,000-£174,999
Joanna Carr Head of current affairs £170,000-£174,999
Sarah Ward-Lilley Managing editor £170,000-£174,999
Jon Zilkha Senior project director £160,000-£164,999
James Gray Head of journalism £155,000-£159,999
Tariq Kafala Controller, news £150,000-£154,999

Picture: Chris Jackson/Pool via Reuters

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