BBC Says Three Women Are Now Among Its 10 Highest-Paid Stars

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The U.K. public broadcaster in its annual report also disclosed the latest financials for commercial arm BBC Studios and said its gender pay gap has narrowed further.

The BBC in its annual report for fiscal year 2018-19, published Tuesday, touted further improvement in its gender pay gap, highlighting that three female on-air stars have broken into its list of 10 highest-paid talents.

For the previous fiscal year, the BBC's top 12 earners were all men. BBC director general Tony Hall said the U.K. public broadcaster has "turned the corner on gender pay."

The BBC's annual report also disclosed the latest financials for commercial arm BBC Studios and more.

For the latest fiscal year, the BBC said former soccer star Gary Lineker remained its top-paid star at £1.75 million ($2.2 million), but three women broke into the list of the top 10 on-air earners. They are Strictly Come Dancing host Claudia Winkleman (£374,999, or $473,000) and Radio 2 hosts Zoe Ball (£374,999), the station’s morning show host, and Vanessa Feltz (£359,999, or $454,000).

Several male stars, who took a pay cut amid criticism of the BBC pay structure in recent years, dropped out of the top 10 list, including radio hosts Jeremy Vine and John Humphrys and TV and radio star Nicky Campbell.

Two years ago, the BBC disclosed, for the first time, the amounts paid to staff and talent earning more than £150,000 ($190,000), with much debate focusing on the gender gap in top pay. Back then, 76 percent of these top on-air earners were men, excluding BBC Studios, whose inclusion would have improved the picture for women.

Last year, that figure declined to 66 percent, with management later revealing that it would drop to 60 percent. For the fiscal year 2019-20, the BBC is projecting the figure to dip further to 55 percent.

"Our gender pay gap is also down from 7.6 percent to 6.7 percent," the BBC touted. "Across the BBC, pay differences between women and men are 3 percent or less at every single band."

The changes show up in the reports gradually as many pay changes are introduced early in the calendar year, just before the start of the new fiscal year in April. The BBC also said that changes to high earners' pay often take more than a year to take full effect.

The BBC in its report also highlighted progress in terms of representation of ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ people and people with disabilities. "We have hit our workforce targets for [ethnic minorities], LGBTQ+ and disability representation," the broadcaster said. "We have more women in leadership roles than ever before at 43.8 percent. But we still have more to do at senior leadership level, both for [ethnic minorities] and female representation, and we will work hard to do so."

The public broadcaster once again noted intense competition with streaming giants and others. "The BBC is rapidly transforming its services to deliver what audiences want at a time of fierce global competition and tough financial pressures," it said. "Despite these challenges, 91 percent of the U.K. adult population use BBC services at least once a week, and programs such as Bodyguard and Killing Eve have won significant audience and critical acclaim, including from younger viewers."

The annual report showed that full-year earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) at commercial arm BBC Studios came to £159 million ($200 million), up 51 percent from the £105 million recorded for the previous fiscal year. The fact that revenue fell 2.7 percent to £1.37 billion ($1.73 billion) shows that cost cuts drove the EBITDA improvement.

"This year marks the first full year of operation of the new BBC Studios, following our decision to merge our production and distribution arms," said BBC chairman David Clementi. "It is encouraging that BBC Studios has made such a confident start. Programs like Luther and Les Misérables, Top Gear and Doctor Who have set the creative standard and underline the breadth and diversity of BBC Studios’ work."

The BBC overall said its total revenue fell to £4.89 billion ($6.17 billion) from £5.06 billion, driven by a 3.7 percent drop in license fee income to £3.69 billion ($4.66 billion) and lower DVD revenue, while operating expenses rose 2.5 percent to nearly £5.00 billion ($6.3 billion). That led it to a £52 million ($65.6 million) operating loss after a year-ago surplus of £244 million ($307.9 million).