Big companies pay tens of thousands of pounds to major BBC presenters to host events, according to recently released documents that show how financial institutions employ the public broadcaster’s top stars.
Andrew Marr, the £ 360,000-a-year host of BBC One’s Sunday Morning Political Show, received at least £ 5,000 more while speaking to staff and clients of wealth management firm Brewin Dolphin during a Zoom call at the end of March.
A screenshot of the call seen by the Guardian shows that Marr organized the paid external event from a meeting room at the headquarters of the Broadcasting House company, while wearing a BBC thong.
Responding to a question about Marr, a BBC spokesperson said: “We understand the logistical challenges posed by the pandemic, but we remind all staff that there is a clear difference between the use of meeting for events related to the BBC in relation to anything external. ”
Radio 4 presenter Justin Webb topped the BBC’s star rating with the highest paid external events, receiving at least £ 20,000 in the first three months of this year for external work carried out in addition to his annual salary of £ 250,000 to host the Today program. .
He received at least £ 5,000 for hosting an information breakfast for City-based management consultancy Proxima and similar fees for financial services trade body CISI, trade body from automakers SMMT and from the wealth management magazine CityWealth.
The actual amount received could have been higher as the BBC register requires staff to report only if each booking was worth more or less £ 5,000.
For years, many high profile BBC presenters have increased their salaries by taking substantial fees from private companies to host awards, moderate panel events and interview guests. Their presence helps generate interest in the events, while presenters often see this income as making up the difference between their salary and what they think they can earn in commercial media.
However, following a spate of conflict of interest scandals that could affect media coverage, BBC Managing Director Tim Davie demanded that on-air journalists and senior executives release details of their reservations for external events in a regularly updated payroll register.
The new disclosure diary only covers January through March 2021, when the number of award events and ceremonies was drastically reduced due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Despite this, dozens of prominent on-air presenters still recorded payments for events hosted through Zoom and other video conferencing services, although some staff said they were disappointed that the unpaid speeches at the schools and charities are not included on the list.
Some of the event bookings are directly related to the topics covered by the journalists involved. Spencer Kelly, host of BBC World’s Click tech show, received at least £ 5,000 for chairing a panel for tech company Cisco. Editor-in-chief Mark Easton took a similar amount from the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations across the country.
BBC breakfast host Dan Walker received over £ 5,000 for hosting an event for the St James’s Place wealth management company, and a similar sum from the cooperative.
Irish law firm Mason Hayes and Curran hired Newsnight host Emily Maitlis for a webinar to celebrate International Women’s Day, while other companies that have hired BBC staff for lectures during from this period included Google and Microsoft.
The new rules were introduced after a string of scandals including BBC North America editor Jon Sopel, who gave a paid speech for tobacco company Philip Morris, and former director of Editorial Kamal Ahmed taking £ 12,000 to speak at a hedge fund conference.
Eyebrows were raised in the BBC press room when Boris Johnson formally announced in 2019 that he would run as leader of the Conservative Party while being interviewed by BBC News host Huw Edwards at an event of the insurance industry. Both were being paid to attend when the headline news broke.