A piece in today’s Times:
Eddie Mair, the presenter of Radio 4’s PM programme, has quit the BBC for commercial radio after refusing to agree a new deal on reduced pay.
The Times revealed last month that Mair was the last high-profile male BBC News presenter holding out against pressure to accept a cut as the corporation struggles to close its gender pay gap.
Yesterday the 52-year-old confirmed that he would be leaving the BBC after 30 years. He is set to join the commercial talk station LBC and as much as double his salary. [J4MB emphasis]
The BBC is desperate to drive down the pay of several men before the publication of the updated list of “on-air talent” salaries next week.
It was also announced yesterday that the Radio 2 host Jeremy Vine would be stepping down as presenter of BBC One’s viewer feedback programme Points of View after 10 years, reducing his total salary.
Mair has become one of the most familiar and popular voices on BBC radio since taking over as sole presenter of PM, Radio 4’s afternoon news programme, in 2003. He joined the corporation in 1987, starting at Radio Scotland.
His conversations with Steve Hewlett about The Media Show host’s terminal cancer attracted particular praise, as did his combative interview with Boris Johnson while standing in on The Andrew Marr Show in 2013.
However, he infuriated bosses by refusing to accepting a cut to his £300,000-£350,000 salary after the gender equality row engulfed the BBC last year. Male colleagues including John Humphrys, Nick Robinson, Huw Edwards, Nicky Campbell, Andrew Marr and Vine all agreed reductions.
The presenter’s resignation statement was characteristically droll.
“I thought this was the appropriate moment to step out and give someone else a chance, before I’m so old my sentences make no lasagne,” he said. “I’m going to miss the PM team, and Tony Hall’s aftershave.
“I realise the BBC will close down without me and there will be a run on the pound but I can’t stay in an organisation that refused to let me host Songs of Praise. I bought a jacket and everything. I’m truly grateful to the BBC, however, for being given more opportunities over the years than I deserved. Whoever comes next will be getting the best job in the BBC and I honestly wish them the very best.”
Fran Unsworth, director of BBC News, said: “He is one of the outstanding broadcasters of his generation and his new employer is very lucky to have him.”
Mair’s last PM will be on Friday August 17. The BBC has yet to reveal his successor.
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