Christine Bleakley jumps ship

Posted on June 20, 2010

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Has BBC One presenter Christine Bleakley been sacked by the BBC ? Was she ‘mad’ to consider ditching the BBC? Or did BBC creative director Alan Yentob, BBC One Controller Jay Hunt and Director of Vision Jana Bennett just lose patience with the 34 year old agonising over whether to stick with the Corporation or accept an offer from ITV’s Director of Television Peter Fincham?

This evening GMTV announced that Bleakley would be joining the programme in September, joining her former co-presenter Adrian Chiles when the ITV breakfast show relaunches in the autumn.

Post-Jonathan Ross, some might think that the modest counter-offer from the BBC – reportedly £100,000 on top of her existing £350,000 – demonstrates how the Corporation is thinking more realistically about presenter fees. Withdrawing an increased offer rams the point home even further: we know we can’t be seen to be wasting money on presenters fees – if we have to force the issue we will.

In PR terms it’s quite a bold move. We’re making the decision for you. We’re dropping you. We can’t be seen to be doing this. Off you trot. Take the higher bid. We know you want to work – and work well with – your former colleague. We ain’t going to stand in your way.

At least that’s the impression I get letting my imagination fill in the blanks.

If I’m right about that then I’m only partially happy with the outcome. I’m only too aware of the reported salary Jonathan Ross benefited from, so appreciate that Bleakley’s current £350,000 is peanuts in comparison. Even so, I’m a stickler. I’m a bitter old queen. I’m happy to admit it. I’m probably naive too.

When I think about what a presenter actually does for their money I’m still at a loss to understand why it is such salaries are necessary. And in blogging about it I find myself agreeing with what Janet Street-Porter said last week on the subject on the Daily Mail website.

Are high salaries secured merely because of personality or on-screen chemistry or how pretty they look? As far as I can make out a presenter – especially in entertainment circles – is largely called upon to be at a certain location at a certain time in time for a run-through in front of an autocue, reading out a few pieces to camera linking pre-produced packages. Could there possibly be a time when presenters get paid for what they actually do ?

I’d be a fool to say I reckoned anyone could do it but I genuinely don’t believe that there are so few people in the country who could present The One Show (or any other entertainment show on any channel for that matter) that even £350,000 seemed like a reasonable salary.

Maybe it’s because a presenter’s earnings have to accommodate their agent’s cut. Here’s some thoughts based on a few assumptions:

1. Christine Bleakley’s “salary” is £350,000. (It’s not a salary – technically she’s not BBC staff – so her fee is £350,000 for the year for the sake of argument.)

2. That “fee” has been negotiated by an agent. She has an agent. She’s just moved agents. So, say that agent has negotiated a 10% (that’s probably extremely generous but you know .. this is a worst case scenario) with Bleakley.

3. 10% of £350,000 is £35,000. Potentially Christine Bleakley’s agent could earn £35,000 just from taking a cut, leaving the presenter with a total of £315,000 a year. Quite a healthy remainder, it has to be said.

4. Per month, Bleakley could be taking home (before tax) £26,250 per month; the agent could be taking home (before tax) £2916 per month. Agents – unlike their clients – rarely only have one client on their books so their monthly earnings must be higher than (assuming the 10% was a fair cut in the first place).

OK, so the tax deduction is going to be hefty for the talent and the agent is absolutely going to have to have a good few more clients on their books, but it’s still a nice earner for both parties with considerably more income per month than I get.

And the thing is, I’m not complaining about my lot particularly.

Well, apart from the fact that I’d quite like to be a presenter, wouldn’t want to share my earnings with an agent and certainly wouldn’t demand anything like the salaries being bandied about even now in this post-Jonathan Ross “more realistic” world.

And yes, even I’m wondering how this changes my largely pro-Graham Norton stance.

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