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Bell: I don’t know how BBC’s best paid news stars justify salaries

Warzone reporter went three decades during his time at the Corporation without asking for a pay rise

22 October, 2020

Martin Bell

FORMER BBC war correspondent Martin Bell has suggested people “reading words off an autocue” are paid too much at the BBC.

The 82-year-old who lives in Hampstead said: “By the time I left the BBC, I was earning £60,000. It was never about the money. When I read about today’s new stars I think ‘no one deserves that amount, however good they are’.”

He added: “A lot of it is just reading words off an autocue. It’s not like they are risking their lives. I’m not angry about it, I just wonder how they can justify the salary to themselves.”

Mr Bell, who became an independent MP between 1997 and 2001 after standing on an anti-sleaze platform, had joined the BBC in his early 20s and worked his way up to cover foreign affairs. He often visited war zones and reported on conflicts in Vietnam, Middle East and Bosnia.

But Mr Bell said he went three decades during his time at the Corporation without asking for a pay rise.

“I’ve no regrets as it was a huge privilege to do what I was doing,”  he told the Sunday Times finance section. “More savvy colleagues said I should have been fighting to get a more lucrative contract but I just loved doing the job.”

He added: “The only time I was mildly affluent was when I was an MP because I had a BBC pension and a parliamentary salary. A lot of MPs complained that they were underpaid but I don’t think I was.”

The BBC began publishing the salaries of its top-earning screen stars for the first time in 2018. Its top earner this year remained Match Of The Day host Gary Lineker who collects up to £1.75million a year. Newscaster Huw Edwards was fifth on the list with a salary of £465,00 a year.

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