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Wages bill for biggest stars to be examined

THE pay bill for some of the BBC's biggest screen and radio stars, including Graham Norton and Jeremy Clarkson, is to be examined in a review by the BBC Trust, which will look at how the costs compare to commercial rivals.

Among those thought to be some of the highest-paid figures at the corporation are presenters such as chat show host and Radio 2 star Norton, Top Gear's Clarkson, Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman and Fiona Bruce from BBC1's Antiques Roadshow.

The Trust has now announced it will look into the issue of "talent" pay - which is thought to amount to around £200 million annually - among its programme of reviews over the coming months. The last time it scrutinised the issue was in 2009 at a time when there was disquiet about the levels of pay for big names such as Jonathan Ross, who has now left the BBC in the wake of the Sachsgate scandal. The talent bill is now said to have been reduced by 13%.

An independent consultant with expertise in the market will be brought in to look at the BBC's mechanisms for controlling its outlay for talent, which eats up the equivalent of more than 1.3 million licence fees.

The Trust said that the review, beginning later this spring, "will examine the BBC's processes to control costs in recruiting and developing talent, and benchmark against the wider market".

Last year's annual report for the BBC revealed there are 14 stars who are paid more than £500,000 annually although that was down from 16 for the previous year.

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