BBC WOMEN GO ROGUE ON PAY

Pre­sen­ters hit back over claims from cor­po­ra­tion

Yorkshire Post - - FRONT PAGE - DAVID BEHRENS COUNTY COR­RE­SPON­DENT ■ Email: david.behrens@ypn.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @york­shire­post

IT MAY be lack­ing in spe­cial ef­fects, but like all the best TV dra­mas it is rich in in­trigue and jeop­ardy and comes with a stel­lar cast.

But the con­tin­u­ingly un­fold­ing soap opera about its own staff is one spec­tac­u­lar the BBC would hap­pily have handed to an­other chan­nel.

The lat­est in­stal­ment yes­ter­day came as its direc­torgen­eral Tony Hall pre­pared for a cli­mac­tic grilling by the Gov­ern­ment’s Dig­i­tal, Cul­ture, Me­dia and Sport Com­mit­tee. Be­fore he could an­nounce that the in­ter­nal re­view he had com­mis­sioned had dis­cov­ered “a gen­der pay gap” but no ev­i­dence of bias, some of his staff went rogue.

A group call­ing it­self BBC Women, which in­cludes the pre­sen­ters Jane Gar­vey and Vic­to­ria Der­byshire, said the re­view should not be con­fused with an equal pay au­dit of all their col­leagues. The group has pre­vi­ously said it had “no con­fi­dence” in the re­view and that its mem­bers had faced “veiled threats” while try­ing to broach the sub­ject of equal pay.

Mean­while, Ju­lia Brad­bury, the for­mer Coun­try­file and

Watch­dog host, who grew up in Sh­effield, crit­i­cised the de­ci­sion to cut the pay of some high­pro­file male stars, say­ing it was not the way to en­sure equal pay.

Broad­cast­ers John Humphrys, Huw Ed­wards, Nicky Campbell, Jon Sopel, Nick Robin­son and Jeremy Vine have all re­duced their salaries fol­low­ing the pub­lic­ity sur­round­ing the pay re­view.

Ms Brad­bury said: “It’s very gal­lant of the men to step down like that... but I don’t think that’s the an­swer at all. It’s wrong to bring men down to try to make it an equal play­ing field for women.”

She said she had ac­cepted that she would be paid less than the male co-pre­sen­ter on her first big pro­gramme be­cause he was “more ex­pe­ri­enced”. But she added: “There has got to be a con­scious change in all our at­ti­tudes.”

The BBC, how­ever, said there would be fur­ther “sub­stan­tial pay cuts” for some male pre­sen­ters – while at the same time one of its man­agers ap­peared to jus­tify high earn­ings for its en­ter­tain­ment stars.

Fran Unsworth, the newly ap­pointed director of news and cur­rent af­fairs, de­fended the salaries of Gra­ham Nor­ton, Gary Lineker, Chris Evans and other top earn­ers by say­ing they were “op­er­at­ing in dif­fer­ent mar­kets”.

“En­ter­tain­ment is a much more com­pet­i­tive mar­ket than news, and has be­come in­creas­ingly com­pet­i­tive,” she said.

The BBC re­vealed last year that it pays Evans £2.2m and Lineker about £1.7m. Nor­ton earns about £850,000 a year, not in­clud­ing his Friday night chat show, the BBC said.

Doc­u­ments from the Cul­ture Com­mit­tee re­veal that a for­mer health cor­re­spon­dent, Eleanor Brad­ford, fol­lowed the lead of BBC China editor Car­rie Gra­cie in re­sign­ing in protest at in­equal­i­ties. Ms Brad­ford said she was paid “about £10,000” less than some of her male col­leagues. She was the only per­son named in a list of 14 cases cited by the com­mit­tee as they pub­lished writ­ten ev­i­dence ahead of to­day’s ques­tion­ing of the director-gen­eral.

The re­main­ing 13 cases have been put for­ward anony­mously as “most women do not wish to give their names out of con­cern for their BBC ca­reers”.

There has got to be a con­scious change in all our at­ti­tudes. For­mer Coun­try­side pre­sen­ter Ju­lia Brad­bury.

EVEN THOUGH a BBC­com­mis­sioned re­view claims to have found no ev­i­dence of gen­der bias in the set­ting of salaries, the pub­lic’s per­cep­tion ap­pears to be very dif­fer­ent. If there were no dis­crep­an­cies, the world-ac­claimed Car­rie Gra­cie would not have re­signed as China Editor. Nor would high-pro­file fe­male broad­cast­ers be in open re­volt over these in­equal­i­ties. Or well-known male pre­sen­ters agree­ing to take salary cuts to stem the em­bar­rass­ment.

This ap­pears to be a clas­sic BBC white­wash made worse by the an­nounce­ment that there will be a £320,000 cap on the salaries of top news pre­sen­ters. Though the Cor­po­ra­tion is com­mit­ted to tack­ling the dis­crep­an­cies that have hit the head­lines, this is still an as­ton­ish­ing sum – it is ef­fec­tively dou­ble Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s an­nual pay – when those con­cerned can still un­der­take lu­cra­tive out­side work. Yes, li­cence fee pay­ers de­mand equal pay – but they also ex­pect the over­all wage bill to go down in time.

PIC­TURES: BBC/PA.

PAY ROW: Main pic­ture, Ju­lia Brad­bury has waded into the ar­gu­ment over pay in­equal­ity at the BBC; from top, Chris Evans, Car­rie Gra­cie and director-gen­eral Tony Hall.

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