What will the industry make of star pay?

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Media captionWhy the gender pay gap could mean problems for the BBC

If you ask experienced people in the world of broadcasting what they think of these salary disclosures, three clear and consistent points are apparent.

First, the BBC pays below - and sometimes much below - market rates, both at management level and in terms of top broadcasting talent.

Second, this move will prove inflationary. Those on the list will think to themselves: "Why is that inferior presenter getting paid more than me?" - and will demand a pay rise.

Third, if you thought it was tin hat time for the talent, pity the poor agents they work with.

All over the land talent agents are being exposed either for having exaggerated what certain people are paid - in order to get a good deal for their client - or having several clients who do similar roles but at wildly different pay. Ouch.

In recent weeks I have spoken to at least a dozen people in the industry, from top agents to the likes of Michael Grade (former boss of the BBC, Channel 4, and ITV - and an agent) and these points command a consensus.

But whenever I see a consensus, my instinct is to run in the opposite direction.

For all that the BBC may pay less than some rivals, the individual figures released today will shock many members of the public.

It is in the very nature of broadcasting that viewers and listeners develop a connection to these so-called stars.

Some they like, some they hate; and almost all they will have an opinion on. That opinion will be fundamentally re-adjusted by their knowledge of how much these broadcasters are charging.

Key Themes

Not all the numbers released today actually pertain to salaries: there are some individuals who will have been paid over £150,000 in the financial year up to 2016/7, but who aren't continuing in those roles and projects in the following financial year.

Such details will most likely be lost in the coming days, as a few key themes emerge.

One is the gender gap. A third of the 96 names are women, which Tony Hall admitted to me last night isn't good enough.

An area that I suspect will arouse controversy is why different presenters on the same shows get different salaries.

There are several instances where men get paid more than women doing the same show. Of course individual circumstances vary. But this is not a good look for the BBC.

But as I said on Today this morning, the BBC might feel relatively happy talking about gender, because they have a decent story to tell here. Not only are over 60 per cent of recent appointments of over £150,000 female, but there are some really high-profile ones too. Just this weekend, the new Doctor Who was revealed to be a woman.

Image caption Tomorrow's newspapers are expected to target high earners such as presenter Jeremy Vine

Moreover, what the BBC won't want - but which is inevitable - is for this story to become a sequence of character assassinations. They'd much rather talk about gender targets than why anyone should get 20 or 50 times the average income in Britain to read the news or host a conversation on the radio.

Tomorrow's papers will be full of aggressive personal attacks, not just on Chris Evans and Gary Lineker - who are at the top of the list - but the likes of John Humphrys, Jeremy Vine, Stephen Nolan and Alan Yentob.

Alas for the corporation, much as it would like to talk in generalities about targets on gender and diversity, the publication of these figures has in effect opened up 96 negotiations - between each individual and the public, often mediated by newspapers not very fond of the BBC, staffed by journalists who will never earn six figure sums.

Poacher's charter?

The licence-fee payer might - and Britain's press certainly will - ask: can these hugely well paid stars really get equivalent money elsewhere?

Probably not. And so if, say, this or that radio presenter would do the same job for £100,000 less, why the hell shouldn't he or she take a pay cut?

These individual negotiations between on-air talent, the public and other media will dominate the story in the medium-term.

Tony Hall and his fellow negotiators didn't want this information in the public domain, arguing it would amount to a poachers' charter. That was a bullish claim. We are about to find out if the BBC was right to make it.

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