Executive pay

I’ve argued elsewhere that one of Mark Thompson’s primary motivations in attacking the pension scheme is to head off criticism from the anti BBC media. But it’s clear that this criticism owes an awful lot to the appalling way the BBC has handled pay at the top of the organisation. An interesting article yesterday argued that the BBC was terribly slow to realise the impact that management pay was having on the debate about the BBC’s future. My understanding is that when he arrived at the BBC Mark Thompson was instrumental in the appointment of a remuneration committee run by a top banker, and it was with this appointment that executive pay (including his own) began to jump ahead in leaps and bounds.

I’m not arguing that the only reason Mark Thompson launched his onslaught on our pensions was to head off criticism of the BBC that had been generated by his own excessive pay rises. But it’s a factor in the mix. I think Mark wants to neutralise as many of the BBC’s potential vulnerable points as possible. Very belatedly this includes his own pay. So the attack on our pensions ends up as the solution to lots of different problems at once; it solves the pension fund deficit, offers the opportunity to reduce the BBC’s spending on pensions in the medium and long term (see a recent post), removes a potential line of attack from the BBC’s opponents (gold plated pensions), and makes him seem tough in dealing with his own side.

Only one problem. All of that is at the expense of breaking the BBC’s pension promise, encapsulated in the rules of the pension scheme.


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