BLOG: How many presenters does it take to plug the BBC's pension deficit?

Written by Talya Misiri

The UK's public service broadcaster, the BBC, dominated headlines last week as it revealed the salaries of its top paid stars.

BBC Radio 2 presenter Chris Evans came in as the BBC's biggest biller in the £2.2m to £2.5m pay bracket, followed by presenter Gary Lineker earning between £1.75m to £1.79m and Graham Norton earning just below a million with £850,000 to £899,999. Presenter Claudia Winkleman was revealed as the highest paid woman, in the £450,000 to £499,999 pay bracket, significantly lower than male counterparts.

What wasn't as broadly broadcast, however, was the growing size of the corporation's pension deficit. While the scheme's assets increased from £12.82bn in 2016 to £15.75bn in 2017, liabilities also rose from £13.82bn in 2016 to £16.89bn this year.

“The movement in the IAS 19 employee benefits estimate of the defined benefit scheme liability during the year, specifically the BBC Pension Scheme, is the item which singularly has the greatest impact on the balance sheet position of the group,” the BBC's Annual Report and Accounts 2016/17, also published last week, said.

While the case may be that it is the BBC's pension liabilities that have the biggest impact on its balance sheet and not the salaries of its highest earners, Pensions Age asks, how many TV stars does it take to plug the BBC's pension liabilities?

Taking an average of the top four earners' (Chris Evans, Gary Lineker, Graham Norton and Jeremy Vine) pay in addition to Winkleman's, the figures are as follows.

To make the BBC's pension 2017 liabilities, (£16.8bn) it would take 2,000 Chris Evans, 3,000 Gary Linekers, 4,000 Graham Nortons, 4,000 Jeremy Vines and 1,100 Claudia Winklemans.

Furthermore, to total the accounting deficit as defined by IAS 19 at 31 March 2017, £1.149bn, you would need 333,333 Samsung 49" smart TVs, 3,436,426 TV licences, 10 Alan Shearers, 10 Chris Evans, 20 Tess Dalys, 30 Scott Mills, 24 Jools Hollands and 57 Gary Linekers.

Although the BBC stars' salaries did come as a shock to the British public, these are evidently nowhere near the scale of the BBC's pension liabilities, which, when directly compared as above, come as an even greater surprise.

With the public's focus being drawn to the stars’ salaries, it is the larger pensions numbers that understandably capture the pensions industry's attention.

Nonetheless, both the public and the pensions industry share a similar view when it comes to the gender pay gap. While the spotlight has been shone on the BBC's male and female stars' largely differing salaries, their pensions gender pay gap is likely to be vast as well. We’ll have to wait a few decades to see if these male and female stars enjoy vastly different retirements though!

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