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Having pay revealed led to Chris Evans leaving BBC Radio 2, says Tony Hall

By | Published on Thursday 13 September 2018

Chris Evans

Chris Evans being revealed as the BBC’s highest paid on-air talent was in part behind his decision to leave the organisation, Director General Tony Hall revealed earlier this week. Speaking before a parliamentary select committee, he added that the pay disclosures has caused others to quit too.

The government last year forced the BBC to begin publishing the salaries of actors, presenters and journalists that is paying over £150,000 a year. Evans topped that list in 2017, with a salary of over £2.2 million, and came in second this year, earning over £1.6 million.

Having his earnings made public in this way was “quite hard” for Evans, said Hall. Not least because he came in for a lot of negative attention from the anti-BBC press.

“For three or four days he was the centre of a lot of attention”, said Hall. “[It has a] bearing on when you think about where you want to work in the future. I think he’s a remarkable presenter. He’s a loss to the BBC, a loss to our audiences”.

Although much media commentary on BBC salaries argues that the organisation pays its talent too much, Hall said that the salary disclosures actually highlighted the fact that it can’t offer levels of pay akin to the commercial sector.

Evans is moving to Virgin Radio, of course, reportedly on a salary of £2 million a year, despite that digital-only station having a much smaller audience than his current employer BBC Radio 2. It’s also owned by News UK, whose newspaper titles The Sun and The Times are among the strongest critics of the BBC.

Hall said that there is “no doubt [that] disclosure and the fact people know their pay has been a factor in” some people leaving the BBC.

However, he added that many presenters stick with the broadcaster despite knowing that they could earn a lot more elsewhere “because they’re committed to the BBC”. He also said that the Corporation now planned to develop new talent to rise up the ranks, rather than trying to attract existing big names with big paycheques.

Despite the loss of people like Evans, Hall said that he had “no complaint” about being forced to publish salaries, saying that ultimately “disclosure is a good thing”.