THE leading showbiz agent JON ROSEMAN represented some of the top women in television among his star-studded client list. These are his views on the furore over the so-called ‘BBC Rich List’
AS AN AGENT I managed the likes of Nicky Campbell, Natasha Kaplinsky, Emily Maitlis, Anne Diamond, Claudia Winkelman, Fern Britton, Jonathan Dimbleby, Roger Cook, the late and very much missed Jill Dando and many others (too many others, actually!)
Is it fair or ethical for BBC talent to have their earnings made public? Unfortunately, their fees come out of the public purse so the public has a right to know how the money is spent. Fair or not, that’s showbiz!
When you negotiate a contract you obviously try and get as much as you can for your client, taking into account market forces. On many occasions I was aware that most of my clients weren’t worth the money I negotiated for them. But you take what you can get!
TV people, like many sportsmen, do not necessarily enjoy a long shelf life. I was often bemused at the massive money paid to light entertainment ‘stars’ compared to the money news and current affairs people could earn. But ratings also play a part.
When it came to any question of gender financial discrimination, my clients didn’t suffer because, after decades of doing deals, I knew what just about everyone was paid. Knowledge, as they say, is power.
So if a TV company ‘tried it on’ by offering less money than I knew a male counterpart was getting I was able to do tell them to eff off and pay the same’.
Similarly, when negotiating Roger Cook’s deal for The Cook Report it was obvious to me that you couldn’t have The Cook Report without Roger.
Even so, I had to be aware of market forces. If I pushed too hard we could have lost out completely. No matter how intrinsic a client to the programme, there is an upper limit. Experience tells you that limit.
It’s not always about the money. Often in news and current affairs negotiations I had to specify, particularly for female clients co-presenting with a male presenter, that co-presenting meant just that. HE couldn’t hog the big interviews, leaving HER to cover the ‘baby’ stories. No surprise that most programme editors were misogynists.
For what It’s worth I really don’t think that the likes of Chris Evans, Gary Lineker or Claudia Winkelman are worth anything like what they are paid.
The question the BBC have to ask themselves is a simple one: where would these people go if they didn’t give in. to their agents’ demands? Sky might be able to afford the demands of a Lineker but the others?
Of course, their BBC earnings are not the whole story: tens of thousands in additional fees pour in from from corporate appearances, newspaper articles and the rest, all course a result of their telly fame.How indispensable are these people? In my view not at all.
One or two, such as John Humphrys, are as near as dammit, national institutions and should be paid accordingly. When it comes to the likes of John Humphrys & Co, for example, experience has to be taken into account.
A client of mine, one of the world’s most distinguished child psychologists, was sought by leading children’s toy company Mattel to consult for twenty days a year on toys for the under-threes . When I told my client the sum I had negotiated she was absolutely staggered, academics not being paid too well!
I merely pointed out to her that it wasn’t about twenty days a year, it was about her forty years of experience.
Finally, a message from old JR in retirement in Italy to all those female presenters who feel undermined and underpaid. . .
Get a new agent!
And here are some of the early reactions to Jon’s advice. . .
Mike Hollingsworth (Top agent)
Spot on Jon! Some of the sums I negotiated made even me gasp. While agents such as you (and, I like to think, me) were well practised at winding up the ante, I often thought some of the people on the broadcasters’ side were pretty tame and even naive, never thinking we might settle for less.
On one deal I ratcheted up over a million for a client who was going to replace a well-known and beloved presenter and we’d have settled for half of that amount just for the opportunity to put her into pole position.
However, I never expected less for my female clients than their male counterparts and I never settled for less, even when we were talking silly money; sometimes quite the reverse.
I don’t know why the balance is otherwise.
Russ Kane (Radio London presenter)
I still receive payment of £8 for my outstanding contribution to the worldwide sales of Only Fools And Horses. And yet I am omitted from the Rich List. Travesty!
Mike Wilson (ex-Thames, Sky presenter)
I still get an annual royalty cheque for between 0.17p and 0.19p for my glorious appearance on the first It’ll Be Alright On the Night. Roseman, where were you?