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Conservatives warn BBC over licence fee rise following leaked salary details

LONDON - The Tories have warned the BBC that the recent leaked salary details of BBC presenters undermine the corporation's proposals to raise the licence fee to 2.3% above the rate of inflation over a seven-year period.

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Shadow culture secretary Hugo Swire told the House of Commons that public support for the BBC's proposed increase of the licence fee from the current £131.50 to £180 by 2014 would seriously undermine public support for the corporation.

He described Jonathan Ross's new £18m three-year deal as only value for money to licence payers "in a parallel universe".

Swire's remarks were made yesterday in a Commons debate about the renewal of the BBC's charter, where the corporation wants approval for raising the licence fee to 2.3% above the rate of inflation over the next seven years.

Swire said: "Recent leaks over the level of pay for presenters only adds to the argument that too generous a settlement will damage the broadcasting sector and could lead to the BBC outspending or outgunning the opposition in a hunt to bag star names."

In April, the BBC launched an investigation into how the salary details of its top-earning radio DJs was leaked to the media, which revealed that Radio Two breakfast host Sir Terry Wogan was its highest-paid presenter, with an annual salary of £800,000.

Radio One's Chris Moyles was in second place with £563,000 for his five shows a week. Chris Evans was also reported to be earning £530,000 a year for his three-hour show every Saturday morning.

The leak was found to be Sam Walton, a temporary BBC worker who later admitted selling details of high-profile BBC presenter's salaries to the national press in return for £1,000. He was later dismissed by the corporation, but no criminal charges were pressed.

Swire added: "There is huge support among the public for the BBC. But an unacceptably high level for the licence fee will surely undermine that support."

"Do you not accept that a settlement in excess of £180 will simply be too high for many families on low income?" he asked the Commons.

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