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BBC boss defends Gary Lineker and Zoe Ball’s £1.3 million salaries

Gary Lineker (Steven Paston/PA)
Gary Lineker (Steven Paston/PA)

The BBC’s director-general has defended the salaries of its top stars Gary Lineker and Zoe Ball.

Match Of The Day host Lineker has signed a new five-year contract with the broadcaster, with a 23% pay cut, from £1.75 million to around £1.35 million.

New director-general Tim Davie said Lineker’s salary was worth it because of the value of analysis to the viewing audience.

The Audio and Radio Industry Awards – London
Zoe Ball (Lia Toby/PA)

Appearing before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee, he said: “I watch Match Of The Day and I’m a religious fan of Match Of The Day, on intravenous drip on numerous commentaries, I also listen for outstanding analysis, proper curation of that.

“I honestly think people are tuning in for the debate on whether the handball was a handball, to talk of one (example) recently.

“All of that is important to the analysis.

“And by the way, that’s why our competitors pay their sports pundits multiples often of what we pay. So they obviously see the value.”

Breakfast show DJ Ball took £1.36 million in 2019/20, not including fronting Strictly Come Dancing’s It Takes Two.

She shed a million listeners in her first year on Radio 2 after taking over The Breakfast Show from Chris Evans.

BBC Director General
Tim Davie, new director-general of the BBC (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Davie said the issue of top pay was “very uncomfortable territory but the truth is in a couple of spots, and that is high-end TV entertainment and the main breakfast show of Radio 2 we’ve always been in the market.

“Go to Google and have a look at some of the speculated prices on other networks that people are paying, that we pay serious money.”

He added: “On the listening figures, I understand the point, but this is still 0.1 pence per listener hour, I still think Zoe is an exceptional broadcaster… having said all of that and you’ll see the negotiation we’ve done with Gary Lineker, I think we are renegotiating contracts and we, and myself, want to get good money for you as a licence fee payer.”

Mr Davie said he did not have a full-time car and driver, but had access to one if necessary, and took public transport for the most part.

“I was on a Tube this morning like everyone else with my mask on.

“I come in on the train like everyone else,” he said.

Mr Davie also addressed Andrew Neil’s departure from the BBC, saying the veteran broadcaster’s decision to become chairman of new 24-hour TV channel GB News was not to do with “solely financial considerations”.

He added: “It was about what he wants to do with his life.”

Mr Davie said Neil’s departure had been amicable and described him as “an outstanding broadcaster”.

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