Once everyone had bothered Googling him (or been informed by a helpful acquaintance that “he's that Welsh bloke who does a bit of sport – no, not him, the other one”) several more cries went up. Specifically: “How come he’s on £355,000 per year?”, “Is he really one of the Corporation’s top 10 earners?”, “Are you absolutely sure?” and “Could it be a typo?”
Sadly, it’s not a typing error. Jason Mohammad really does bring home a salary between £355,000 and £359,999, rocketing up from £260,000 last year. That’s an eye-watering pay rise of £95,000, the second highest hike in the entire BBC. You’d imagine he did something pretty spectacular to earn such an increase but, well, he didn’t.
Most licence fee payers have literally never heard of him. Those who have are astonished that he’d deemed one of the top talents at the Corporation. Perhaps he has some incriminating Polaroids of a BBC bigwig in a compromising position.
To answer the initial question on the nation’s lips, Mohammad is a bits-and-pieces broadcaster with a portfolio of small jobs which add up, rather than one big headline gig. He anchors the Final Score football results show on a Saturday afternoon, in which scrolling graphics and tickertape do most of the heavy lifting, and he helms football phone-in 606 on Radio 5Live, where his role is to play the straight man to lippy haircut-on-legs Robbie Savage.
He also hosts a morning show on BBC Radio Wales and co-presents religious magazine programme Good Morning Sunday alongside Reverend Kate Bottley. Who is arguably the more famous of the two.
Would any of these programmes suffer greatly without him? No, they wouldn’t skip a beat. So it’s baffling and bizarre that he’s considered deserving of such a fat salary. To put that £355,000 wage packet in some real world context, Mohammad is deemed to be worth four-and-a-half MPs or 15 nurses.
The BBC has faced criticism in recent years over the small number of BAME presenters on its so-called “rich list,” so a cynic might suggest that – as a practising Muslim born to a Pakistani father – Mohammad ticks a diversity box. If this is the case, it’s political correctness gone money-mad.
In the BBC Sport department, he’s the third highest earner behind flagship presenter Gary Lineker’s whopping £1.75m (that'll buy a lot of fake tan and tightly tailored shirts) and football pundit Alan Shearer’s £440,000 (don’t get me started). It’s thought that Mohammad was rewarded for his role in the BBC’s World Cup coverage last summer, even though nobody can remember what that role actually was.
Nobody could blame any of the above if they shot Mohammad a dirty look next time they saw him in the corridors of Broadcasting House. That is, if they recognised him. The Cardiff-born broadcaster’s face is so forgettable, I can’t even picture him. And I’ve been researching him for the past few hours.
Mohammad’s short, cursory Wikipedia page doesn’t list his age. Apparently he’s 43 but he looks older. He could almost certainly walk down any UK high street unaccosted. With his grey suits, bald head and agreeable-but-bland features, your eyes seem to slide off him, as if his personality is some sort of pixellated prism.
Even his Twitter bio is so generic, it could cure insomnia: “Coffee drinker. Cardiff boy. Music. Football. Fitness. Films.” It’s like the “Hobbies & interests” section of the most vanilla CV ever. Meanwhile, Mohammad’s own agent lists him below Ana Matronic from the Scissor Sisters, rap DJ Charlie Sloth and someone called Charlie Webster (me neither) on its list of clients.
Sure, Mohammad’s a solid enough broadcaster and seems like a decent bloke. His advocates, if there are any, might argue that he’s both the Gary Lineker and Ken Bruce of Wales, since he straddles TV sport and mainstream radio. Except he earns £100,000 more than Bruce and isn’t a fraction as high-profile as Lineker.
Defending the bumper wage bill, director-general Lord Hall Of Birkenhead said the public supported the BBC giving fat salaries to "big stars" because they were "talented and entertaining”. Except Mohammad is, by no stretch of the imagination, a big star. He’s averagely talented and not particularly entertaining. Yet somehow he’s being paid 11 times the national average salary.
His Tonyship added that most high-earning stars would earn significantly more if they went to work for a commercial rival. Well, let Mohammad try his luck. Very few viewers would notice, let alone miss him.
Should one of the top 10 earners at the BBC really be a nice-but-dull rent-a-broadcaster whom most licence fee-payers haven’t even heard of and couldn’t pick out of a line-up? No. It’s bonkers. Nothing personal, Jason Mohammad, but your salary is a joke. I'd say it to your face but I can't remember what you look like.