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The price of talent

July 20, 2017

What is the price of talent? This question is front and centre after the publication of the list of the BBC’s top earners. In many cases, presenters are paid massive amounts of money for just a few hours work a week. On top of this, they are often given cars to ferry them to and from the studio, or given hotel rooms. I think it scandalous that many of these people are paid more than doctors, surgeons, members of parliament and high ranking army officers. How can Chris Evans remuneration possibly be justified? He is on air for three and a half hours a day, totalling what amounts to be part time hours. For this, he gets more than 40 people’s full time wages. In comparison, producers, directors and writers, people who work far longer hours and deal with the content, earn far less.

For women to want the same pay as men is, of course, understandable. But this plea really misses the point. Women who do an equivalent job, for example, a co-presenting role should get the same as their male counterparts. But, on this occasion, somebody like Claudia Winkleman, who earns a fortune for presenting a show that runs for one season a year, shouldn’t be talking about how much she doesn’t earn, but about how much she does earn. Women should be calling for all salaries to be lowered, not for theirs to be raised. It is obscene to see how much money these people are being paid, talented or not. Take Jeremy Vine, he plays music and chats. Not a creatively or intellectually taxing gig. For this, he gets around £700,000 a year.

Before we get swept away on the equal pay debate, we must try to make the pay more realistic. Everyone on this list should be paid less, not more. When real people are working hard with little reward, how can they turn on their televisions or radios without feeling sick? For every high earning entertainer or presenter, there are at least twenty-five who could do the job equally well, for more than half the pay.

Let’s not make this discussion about discrimination – I don’t know how many disabled people, black people or LGBT people are on that list. Frankly, I don’t care. I care that the license fee that the BBC are being paid, is used to supplement, people like Alan Shearer, someone who works once a week and earns more than somebody with a thousand-times more responsability or talent. So, how do we value a person? Do we pay somebody based on their level or responsibility? If so, a teacher ,doctor, nurse, train driver, pilot, MP, and a dozen other jobs should be paid a great deal more. Do we base value upon talent? In that case, writers, actors, presenters, sports men and women should be paid more. Do we base it upon skill? In this case, producers, directors, writers, technicians, designers, should be paid more. Or, is it based on the emperor’s new clothes… based on the fact that if we see somebody on television enough, we assume they are famous. If we assume they are famous, we assume they are talented. If we assume they are talented, their value goes up, and we assume they deserve to get paid a fortune. Or, finally, is it about the hours they work? Ok, there’s no doubt that a presenter on Today, or a breakfast presenter has to go to bed early and get up early enough to get to work in order to prepare for their show. But, most of the prep is done by researchers and producers, who have much longer hours, and much less pay, so that equation doesn’t work. Equally, if you are an actor you have to spend a lot of time hanging around the set during a shoot, so arguably they should get paid more than presenters.

I think, in reality, this has got out of control. Somewhere along the line, we have forgotten what value and talent means, and have allowed this situation to erode reason, much in the same way that the salaries of footballers have lost touch with reality and civilised thinking. There is a debate to be had regarding women’s pay, regarding representation of minorities in the media. But before we have that, we need to take stock and understand that these people, this so called “talent” does not belong to gods, but people. People who, through a mixture of luck, ability, and good agents, have attracted mammoth sums of money. It’s sad, greedy, ridiculous and rather laughable that someone like Hugh Edwards, a chap who reads an auto cue, gets paid more than somebody who performs surgery and saves lives. Go figure – I can’t.

From → Arts, media, radio, Television

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