BBC's John Humphrys says six-figure salary is not justified next to Grenfell firefighters

The presenter said he provides a “useful” service as he separated the media market place from life-saving public sector workers.

Presenter John Humphrys compared himself with a firefighter on the scene of the Grenfell Tower disaster as he admitted that he did not deserve his six-figure salary as much as other public sector workers.

His comments came as he was named fifth on the BBC’s list of highest paid staff members, earning a yearly pay packet of £600,000-£650,000.

But speaking on Radio 4’s Media Show after the figures were released on Wednesday, the channel’s Today programme presenter said he felt he did provide a useful service within the media market.

John Humphrys earns more than his fellow Today programme presenters
John Humphrys earns more than his fellow Today programme presenters (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Asked if he felt he was worth the hefty pay cheque, the 73-year-old said: “What do I do? On paper, absolutely nothing that justifies that amount of money.

“If you compare me with lots of other people – a doctor who saves a child’s life, a nurse who comforts a dying person, or a fireman who rushes into Grenfell Tower – then of course you couldn’t argue that I am not worth twopence halfpenny.

“However, we operate in a market place and I think I provide a fairly useful service. Somebody has to do the job of trying to hold power to account and speak the truth about all that stuff.”

Humphrys, who also hosts BBC 2 quiz show Mastermind, began working for the broadcaster 50 years ago on a £2,000 salary.

The BBC revealed salaries of it's Today programme presenters.
The BBC revealed salaries of it’s Today programme presenters (PA Graphics)

He added that he would “of course” do his job for less money, adding: “It’s corny, forgive me, but I love almost everything about (the BBC), but not its bureaucracy, obviously.

Speaking of the publicly funded organisation’s decision to unveil the figures – which were topped by Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans’ £2,249,999 sum – Humphrys agreed that it was the right thing to do.

“I’ve always thought that,” he said. “In fact I have offered many, many times over the years to reveal what I was earning and (the BBC) always took their view (not to do this).

Sony Radio Academy Awards – London
John Humphrys won the Radio Journalism of the Year Award in 2013 (Yui Mok/PA)

“I can see the reasons why they took that view, because it might end up distorting the market place, but as an individual, as opposed to a BBC corporate person, I am perfectly happy that people should know what I earn and I am terribly interested in seeing the reaction.

“It may be that I am absolutely stunned and pack it all in a week Thursday and say “that’s it, I’m full of shame,” but let’s see what happens.”

One thing Humphrys did not agree with, however, was the revelation than some of his “brilliant” female Today show colleagues, such as Sarah Montague and Mishal Husain, did not make the top 10 list.

He said: “I’m not happy with that…I don’t think that is right.”

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