Not just the money 

7 January 2010 tbs.pm/1118

Jonathan Ross quits BBC

Maybe Jonathan Ross jumped – but the BBC weren’t standing in his way

It was blatantly obvious that something like this was going to happen, especially following the perhaps over-the-top clampdown that engulfed the BBC following the Sachsgate incident, and very probable that there was political and moral pressure at least within the BBC to let Jonathan Ross go as soon as was practically possible.

It’s the end of an era in relation to the BBC paying big money in order to retain ‘top’ talent and subsequently deploying them in all manner of roles within television and radio in order to somehow justify that expense to licence fee-payers; a strategy which attracted the ire of both tabloid newspapers and commercial broadcasters alike.

Such big money signings turned into an unwelcome stick for the commercial sector and the Daily Mail (for one) to beat the BBC with, ignoring the fact that commercial broadcasters were well prepared to get involved in bidding wars for top talent before the recession came along. (Not to mention Simon Cowell’s salary either.)

The BBC still needs to be able to retain at least a few popular presenters along with the inevitable requirements of a reasonably high salary and accompanying benefits package that someone who is watched and heard by millions of viewers would probably be worth.

(Of course certain tabloid newspapers won’t be happy until everyone at the BBC is paid the same as staff in local Job Centres.)

Jonathan Ross’s headline ‘salary’ also included the fees paid to his production company, which was a consideration that was frequently overlooked by tabloid newspapers in their rounds of Ross (and BBC) bashing, but the whole issue of presenter salaries brought the whole subject of “value for money” into very sharp focus.

Perhaps certain BBC executives had also previously misjudged the effects of so-called “multichannel viewing”, figuring that stars such as Ross wouldn’t be as ‘overexposed’ to the viewing population at large if their attentions were divided between numerous channels and viewing figures for individual programmes had been significantly reduced.

Plus of course there will be criticism directed towards the BBC for being cowardly not only for letting Ross go but also in terms of the heavy-handed compliance crackdown that followed ‘Sachsgate’ (which was caused by the breakdown of a normally effective compliance system), that led to Ross’s Radio 2 show being pre-recorded.

Sometimes you just can’t win.