Danny Baker, the BBC and a fair wage

Yesterday the DJ Danny Baker had a spectacular breakdown on BBC London, his 2 hour weekday show has been axed and he’s not a happy bunny.

In fact he blames the pinhead weasels for the cutting his show, and his agent Alex Armitage, said “He adores doing the show.” BBC London, like a lot of areas of the BBC, needs to make cuts as the license fee hasn’t increased and savings need to be made. There has been a big hoo-ha over highly paid stars recently and on the face of it, this has been supported by Baker who says he only trousers £300 per show. Compare that to the supposed £40,000 per show that Alan Hansen is on for Match of the Day, and it superficially seems odd that Baker has been axed.

 Obviously the celebs have been out in force on twitter denouncing the way Baker has been treated- leaning out of their ivory towers to decry his sacking. But of course taking home £300 a show means that you have to add the tax back on it, and if you do this and all sorts of clever maths, you get a gross wage of £130k, as calculated by CoxeyLoxey, a financials market bod I was chatting to on twitter.  Suddenly Baker’s rant seems a little more understandable. £130k a year for two hours on air plus prep time sounds great, especially when the audience for the station as a whole is only 370,000. BBC London have refused to give a breakdown of audiences per show, but logically the breakfast show and the drive time show will have the biggest audiences; Baker doesn’t host either of these. This makes the cost per viewer remarkably similar to Alan Hansen’s supposed pay packet on Match of the Day.

But outside the bubble of megabucks deals for those in the public eye, what does this mean? To me, with a job that pays above the national average wage and puts me a few thousand into the 40% bracket, I can’t get my head round the numbers. Baker is a busy man; his BBC London show obviously doesn’t fill the majority of his day, despite netting him over 3 times my full time salary and there are plenty of full time people that are only only a fifth or a tenth of his radio salary. But his anger doesn’t seem to be focused on the loss of earnings; it seems to be focused on the loss of his show. Does this mean that £130,000 a year is neither here nor there for him? Does he really earn that much for basically just talking old toot on the radio and writing some books?

Therein lies the rub. TV, radio and media personalities in general seem to live in a luxury bubble that is far removed from the rest of us. The BBC, a public sector broadcaster, can make the argument that it needs to pay a commercial wage to keep the talent but that’s shortsighted insofar as it doesn’t take a step back and genuinely look at what it is offering in terms of public sector broadcasting. I’m not saying the BBC should ditch light entertainment but it should look at what is commercially available and consider where it’s resources are best deployed. Spending millions on licensing talent shows like The Voice to the detriment of budget elsewhere is clearly a play at audience figures, which should not be the focus but in an attempt to remain relevant, popularity is now king at the BBC.

Personally, I’d happily see BBC1 and Radio 1 go; I watch mostly BBC2 and BBC4 nowadays because they offer something ITV doesn’t and C4 only intermittently does. I can’t see a situation where a presenter should be paid more than the equivalent of a £50,000-£60,000 salary for making a TV or radio show for the BBC; that’s a lot of money, and if they can get more elsewhere, good for them, there are plenty of hungry younger presenters and actors willing to step up to the plate. A good way to highlight this is to consider how a news presenter on £100,000+ a year can authentically give a government minister a roasting for cutting benefits, as they certainly can’t empathise…