Graham Norton has criticised the “pathetic” decision to publish BBC star salaries, and said some of the figures bear little relation to reality.
Norton said the disclosures were not in the public interest and had done little more than provoke “gossip” about what people earn.
It was the former Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale, who insisted the BBC publish the salaries of everyone earning £150,000 or more.
But Norton said: “The public transparency was already there. They’d already published what proportion of the licence fee is paid to on-screen talent. Now, that’s the bit that people should be interested in.
“This bit is just gossip. It’s so weird that when MPs discussed the charter, this was the demand they made. And I was like, really? You just want to know what Gary Lineker makes. That’s so pathetic.
“But anyway. The poor old BBC are having to do it, and what the BBC said would happen is happening. They are losing people, because it’s not comfortable, it’s not nice.”
Gender pay gap | The BBC presenters who have agreed to a pay cut
- Jeremy Vine – 2016/17 salary: £700,000 to £749,999
- John Humphrys – 2016/17 salary: £600,000 to £649,999
- Huw Edwards – 2016/17 salary: £550,000 to £599,999
- Jon Sopel – 2016/17 salary: £200,000 to £249,999
High profile departures include Chris Evans, who recently announced he was moving to Virgin Radio, and Eddie Mair, who defected to LBC.
The BBC director-general, Lord Hall of Birkenhead, has described the salary list as a “poacher’s charter” and has told MPs that it was a factor in Evans’ departure.
“I don’t think there is any doubt, disclosure has made it harder for us to retain people like that.”
Norton is one of the BBC’s highest-paid presenters, with a published salary of £600,000-£609,999. But that represents only a fraction of his earnings, as his TV chat show is made by his own production company, So Television, and there is no requirement to disclose it.
His other work includes a Radio 2 show and presenting Eurovision coverage.
“The salary thing, it’s frustrating, because it’s so inaccurate. It’s so all over the shop,” Norton said, dismissing the list as “rubbish”.
“Myself and my agent look at that number [his published salary] and we go, ‘I wonder how they came up with that?’ It bears no relation to anything I know. But if that’s what they say I earn, that’s what I earn.
“There are people I know who make millions from the BBC who are just not on that list. It’s just like, really?”
Presenters who do not appear on the list due to the independent production company loophole include Strictly Come Dancing hosts Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly, Question Time’s David Dimbleby and the best-paid actors in EastEnders, Casualty and Holby.
Although he is angry about the pay disclosures, Norton said he remains happy at the BBC and “can’t imagine our show on another channel”.
He was speaking to the BBC website to publicise his new novel, A Keeper. Norton said becoming a novelist was a “bucket list thing”.