Philip Morris – ‘Moonlighting’ BBC News stars must declare outside earnings in public register from New Year’s Day
The BBC’s big-name news presenters must reveal how much they have been paid by companies for outside work in a public register, under new rules which come into effect on Friday.
The move, ordered by Director-General Tim Davie to protect the “impartiality” of BBC News, follows concerns over “moonlighting” by presenters including Naga Munchetty, Fiona Bruce and Huw Edwards.
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All news, current affairs and sport presenters, as well as some radio broadcasters at the BBC, must sign up to the new external engagements register, which will be published regularly, beginning this April.
Public appearance fees made public
Earnings from work undertaken outside of the BBC, including public speaking, conference chairing, book deals and journalism will be declared.
Last year, i reported how Breakfast presenter Munchetty, who earns up to £199,000 a year, was warned by the BBC that she risked a “conflict of interest” after filming a PR video for Aston Martin. She charges up to £10,000 a time for corporate work.
Bruce, who earns more than £800,000 a year, was criticised last year after agreeing to speak at a conference hosted by a firm that had been accused of inadvertently helping criminals to obtain EU passports.
The North America editor, Jon Sopel, who is paid £240,000 a year, spoke at a corporate event for the tobacco firm, Philip Morris.
The newsreader, Huw Edwards, is estimated to have earned up to £400,000 in speaking fees over five years, although he does not accept work from companies that could represent a conflict of interest.
Stars ‘shamed’ into turning down paid roles
BBC insiders believe that making outside earnings public will deter star presenters from cashing in on their profile by accepting commercial work.
A BBC spokesperson said: “Full commitment to impartiality is the bedrock of the BBC and what our audiences expect. We’ve strengthened processes on external work to improve our record keeping, accountability and transparency – and ensure safeguards are in place to protect staff and the whole organisation.”
Munchetty did not disclose her outside work to managers but from today, BBC staff must get written approval from their head of department before signing up to any external engagements.
The new rules are part of a series of measures designed to ensure the “highest standards of impartiality” across the broadcaster.
BBC journalists are now barred from weighing in on matters of public controversy on social media and new “impartiality training” will be rolled out from later this month.