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Wossy’s Gone: Are multi-million pound TV contracts a thing of the past?

January 8th, 2010
Jonathan Ross: a colourful personality.

Jonathan Ross: a colourful personality.

So, Jonathan Ross is set to leave the BBC. We’ll miss him. Despite his loquacious manner and entertaining wit, his last four years at the Beeb have been notable for the array of infantile pranks and borderline crude interviews. As The Daily Mail comments, “in his manner of leaving at least, he has finally attained a degree of dignity.” Ross’s announcement that he had decided not to renegotiate his contract with the BBC was uncharacteristically measured and composed.

In truth, although the BBC will probably claim to be sad to lose their highest-earning star, there are likely to be “a few executives not too bothered about losing a man whose waywardness and multi-million-pound contract had become an embarrassment.”

Days before the confirmation of his departure, sources reported that Ross was concerned by the prospect of having his yearly pay slashed by £3million. True or not, he was the BBC’s highest earner and many at the BBC were said to have cheered on hearing the news of his decision not to renew his contract. Perhaps there is now a new pot of money available to fund new talent, dramas, comedies and documentaries?

Outside his London home, Ross told reporters he “would have liked” to stay at the BBC. He continued, “It has been a great 13 years at the BBC. I think it’s not a bad time for me to move on. It’s possibly not a bad time for them either.”

Though £18 million, three-year contracts for TV personalities are now firmly in the past, what we got from Ross was brash with a cutting humour and a wonderful talent. But is that deserving of the taxpayer’s money and £18 million? There is an argument to spend the money on discovering new talent, yet, does money equal talent? Is there even a necessity for talent on television? Reality TV leads the way in the ratings and Z list celebrities (if we can still call them that) actually make their living from such reality dramas. If Ross was host for Channel 4’s Big Brother and then moved on, would the show still draw in the millions, watching, gasping and cringing? Presumably, yes?

Life after Ross then is likely to be business as usual, musical chairs as Norton, Kermode and even Evans step forward to host the chat shows, radio programmes and film reviews. And perhaps Ross will still grace the screens to present the odd BAFTA or even Children in Need? Whether the BBC will see fit to grant a similar sized contract in this age of austerity is doubtful.

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