Graham Norton quits Radio 2 show and falls down BBC rich list

Graham Norton is to leave his Radio 2 show after a decade, becoming the latest BBC high-earner to drop down the rich list.

He follows the only two presenters to earn more than him, Gary Lineker and Zoe Ball, who both announced recently that they will be taking a pay reduction.

Norton earned £725,000-729,999 last year for his one-day-a-week radio show and a handful of one-off television programmes.

In a statement yesterday, the presenter said he was “sad to be stepping away from my Radio 2 show. I’ll miss being a part of the Wogan house family, as well as the listeners and their lives.”

The BBC said it was Norton’s decision to leave, and he will retain his BBC television work. His departure from Radio 2’s Saturday morning slot will lead to a shake-up of the schedules. Alan Carr and Melanie Sykes, who stood in for Norton over the summer, are in the running to replace him.

Norton’s earnings will still run into the millions because the income from his BBC One chat show is paid via his independent production company and he is not required to disclose it.

The Irish-born presenter has been an outspoken critic of the Government’s decision to make the BBC publish salaries of those earning £150,000 or more, dismissing it as “gossip”.

“It’s micro-managing. The public transparency was already there. They’d already published what proportion of the licence fee is paid to on-screen talent. This bit is just gossip,” he said after salaries were first made public.

“It’s so weird that when MPs discussed the charter, this was the demand they made. I was like, really? You just want to know what Gary Lineker makes. That’s so pathetic.

“It’s not comfortable, it’s not nice.”

More recently, he claimed that transparency was beneficial because it had helped to close the gender pay gap by putting a spotlight on women’s salaries.

The Government announced this week that the BBC, along with ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 4, is to be subject to a review. Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, has appointed a panel of experts to explore whether public service broadcasting has a place in the digital age.

The panel includes Lord Grade, former chairman of the BBC. Yesterday he expressly criticised the BBC for its “expansionism” and said it must slim down.

“The BBC, even though it is having to absorb the pension concession and so on, is still trying to do everything it used to do before. And the sums don’t add up. It should be looking to contract in a meaningful way,” Lord Grade said in an appearance at the Outside the Box media conference.

Told that his words would sound “chilling” to the BBC, Lord Grade said: “The BBC has attacked its cost base over and over. It has been required to because of necessity over the last 5-10 years. But it has still got endless TV channels; it is online everywhere; it hasn’t give anything up, really.

“It stands out like a sore thumb in terms of its expansionism – its ‘what we have, we hold’ mentality, holding territory and not giving anything up, finding a way to keep everything going. And it does raise questions.

“Can it go on being a kind of expansionist institution in an age where the world around it has changed dramatically? It should be redefining what it thinks its basic purpose is and how it can reduce its scope.”

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