Biggest BBC salaries to be revealed as part of overhaul of UK broadcaster

The broadcaster will be regulated externally - said to be "most significant reform" in the BBC's history

BBC, salaries, overhaul, licence fee, diversity, iPlayer, white paper, British government, David Cameron,

A general view of BBC Broadcasting House in Portland Place, London | Image: Anthony Devlin / PA Wire/Press Association Images

The BBC will be regulated by an external organisation for the first time in its 90-year history, the British Culture Secretary has confirmed.

John Whittingdale has unveiled the Government's blueprint for the future of the corporation, which will include Ofcom regulation for the first time.

Mr Whittingdale said the current system of regulating the BBC is "confusing and ineffective", adding that "reform is vital".

He told MPs the British government is "emphatically not saying the BBC should not be popular" - but would introduce a new requirement to provide "distinctive content" rather than just pursue ratings.

This led to Mr Whittingdale being accused of "ideologically-driven meddling" by the Labour party, with shadow culture secretary Maria Eagle claiming his ideas were "totally out of step with the licence fee payers who value and support the BBC".

Mr Whittingdale also announced that:

  • The pay of top stars who earn more than £450,000 (€569,000) will have to be disclosed, which could potentially affect the likes of Graham Norton, Chris Evans and Gary Lineker
  • The £145.50 (€183.80) licence fee will increase in line with inflation until 2022, when there will be a new settlement.
  • People watching BBC programmes on demand online will have to obtain a TV licence, closing a loophole that costs the broadcaster an estimated £150m (around €190m) a year
  • The corporation will have a new unitary board, with a majority of members independent of the government. The BBC Trust will be abolished
  • It was also revealed that the current BBC chair, Rona Fairhead, will remain in her post until the end of her term in 2018.

Outlining the reforms, Mr Whittingdale said: "The BBC is and must always remain at the very heart of British life.

"We want the BBC to thrive, to make fantastic programmes for audiences and to act as an engine for growth and creativity."

He added: "The BBC will operate in a more robust and more clearly defined governance and regulatory framework and it will be more transparent and accountable to the public it serves, who rely on the BBC to be the very best it can possibly be, so it can inform, educate and entertain for many years to come."

The charter renewal process has proved to be controversial, with the BBC and its backers fearful the Government would use it as an opportunity to whittle back the corporation.

However, the BBC gave a positive response to the government's white paper.

Director-general Tony Hall said it "delivers a mandate for the strong, creative BBC the public believe in. A BBC that will be good for the creative industries - and most importantly of all, for Britain".

On the subject of the Ofcom regulation, the broadcaster described it as "the most significant reform in the BBC’s history.

"We think that is the right thing to do. Our view of how the new board is appointed to run the BBC differs from that held in government," a statement added.