Conservative Diary

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The Tories will force BBC to publish top stars' pay as part of bid to squeeze better value out of licence fee

RevealSalaries"BBC presenters earning more than the Prime Minister will be “named and shamed” within weeks if David Cameron wins the general election," reports The Daily Telegraph.

Jeremy Hunt, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, believes that only full transparency of top pay will force the BBC into renegotiating bloated contracts.

Mr Hunt also said that it was "unlikely" that the BBC would be granted an increase in its licence fee and he refused to rule out a cut.  According to a YouGov survey for The Sun only 28% of voters agree that the £142.50pa licence fee provides value for money. 60% thought the fee offered poor value for money.

In The Guardian, the newspaper which BBC news headlines most closely resemble and from which it recruits, Jonathan Freedland slams the Corporation for yesterday's announcement on the closure of the Asian Network and of 6 Music. Mr Freedland accuses the Tories of following Murdoch's agenda:

"Hold a copy of James Murdoch's 2009 MacTaggart lecture in one hand, and a clutch of Tory policy positions on the media in the other. Then see if you can tell them apart."

Mr Hunt's policy of requiring the BBC to publish the pay of top stars and executives is a key part of the Conservative Party's transparency agenda. David Cameron has said that all state expenditures of over £25,000 should be published. This will mean every taxpayer will be able to see how their hard-earned money is being used. More significantly for cutting costs, rival firms will be able to inspect the government's contracts with commercial suppliers and bid to undercut them when they come up for renewal.

Stephan Shakespeare, who co-ordinates the Network for the Post-Bureaucratic Age, has called for the threshold to be lower than £25,000:

"Why make it apply only to contracts above £25,000? You will instantly see an awful lot of government activity pegged at £24,500. Apply the new rules to ALL contracts. Bear in mind, this need add no scintilla of added bureaucracy or cost (a common excuse for keeping things hidden). Virtually all contracts are already in digital form. Use a simple format with appropriate tags, and make all contracts automatically cc’d to an openly accessible data file. That’s it. A simple rule, and it is done. Stand back and watch as competitors access the files, and as the software guys create apps to allow us to see what’s happening to our money."

Tim Montgomerie

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