Women of BBC call for wage-gap ac­tion

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - STEVEN ERLANGER

LON­DON — When the gov­ern­ment forced the BBC to pub­lish the salary ranges of its high­est-paid en­ter­tain­ers and journalists, ex­ec­u­tives feared a back­lash from the Bri­tish pub­lic, most of whom pay about $190 a year for the priv­i­lege of watch­ing its tele­vi­sion broad­casts.

While many Bri­tons crit­i­cized the high salaries, the list also showed a sig­nif­i­cant dis­par­ity in the salaries re­ceived by women, men and mi­nori­ties in gen­eral at the Bri­tish broad­caster — a pay gap that has an­gered many, in­clud­ing some of the BBC’s most tal­ented fe­male em­ploy­ees.

On Sun­day, in an open let­ter signed by 42 fe­male em­ploy­ees to the BBC di­rec­tor gen­eral, Tony Hall, and pub­lished in The Sun­day Times of Lon­don and other news out­lets, they de­manded that the cor­po­ra­tion “act now” to elim­i­nate the dis­par­ity.

Among the sig­na­to­ries were an­chors and me­dia per­son­al­i­ties like Clare Bald­ing, Sue Barker and An­gela Rip­pon, and dis­tin­guished journalists like Lyse Doucet, Jane Gar­vey, Emily Maitlis, Mishal Hu­sain, Zeinab Badawi, Katya Adler and Sarah Mon­tague.

In the let­ter, they asked Hall to meet with them, writ­ing: “You have said that you will ‘sort’ the gen­der pay gap by 2020, but the BBC has known about the pay dis­par­ity for years. We all want to go on the record to call upon you to act now.”

They wrote that the re­port con­firmed a long-held sus­pi­cion that “women at the BBC are be­ing paid less than men for the same work.”

The BBC on Wed­nes­day re­vealed for the first time the salaries of stars earn­ing more than about $195,000. The fig­ures, pub­lished in the cor­po­ra­tion’s an­nual re­port, showed that two-thirds of the peo­ple who fell into that cat­e­gory were male and white.

Ra­dio 2 DJ Chris Evans was the top-paid star, earn­ing more than $2.9 mil­lion, the re­port showed.

Hall has promised to work to re­duce the dis­par­ity, which has his­tor­i­cal roots in what was a male-dom­i­nated cor­po­ra­tion. Some prom­i­nent male journalists, like John Humphrys, have said that they had al­ready had their salaries cut to loosen up more funds. But the women’s let­ter de­manded that Hall ac­cel­er­ate the re­duc­tion.

The high­est salaries are made by those who are en­ter­tain­ers or sports an­chors, which the BBC said re­sulted from a com­pet­i­tive mar­ket­place for star tal­ent. Some of the high­est paid, both male and fe­male, make even more money than re­vealed be­cause they are paid by the pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies that make some of the pro­grams pur­chased by the BBC.

The cor­po­ra­tion has been sharply crit­i­cized in the past for lav­ish spend­ing on its top man­age­ment, and it has moved to cut the num­bers of top ed­i­tors and their salaries.

For some, the ar­gu­ment had el­e­ments of an elite de­bate among some of the high­est-paid peo­ple in the coun­try.

Michael White, who was a Guardian jour­nal­ist, ed­i­tor and colum­nist, said on Twit­ter that “lazy colum­nists” were milk­ing a pay dis­pute “in which highly paid women com­plain men are paid even more.”

But when the fig­ures came out, Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May called on the BBC to pay men and women equally. “We’ve seen the way the BBC is pay­ing women less for do­ing the same job,” she told LBC ra­dio. “What’s im­por­tant is that the BBC looks at the ques­tion of pay­ing men and women the same for do­ing the same job.”

The La­bor Party leader, Jeremy Cor­byn, called the gen­der pay gap “ap­palling,” ac­cord­ing to The Sun­day Times of Lon­don.

A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the broad­caster said that progress had been made but that more “needs to be done.”

While some of­fi­cials are call­ing for the re­lease of more de­tails, such as for those who make be­low $195,000, the plan for next year’s list is not to in­clude the salaries of 34 ac­tors, co­me­di­ans, fac­tual and en­ter­tain­ment pre­sen­ters who work for Stu­dios, the BBC’s pro­duc­tion arm, or the wages of multi­genre em­ploy­ees. That in­cludes Humphrys’ earn­ings for the TV show Master­mind, ac­cord­ing to re­ports.

“We’ve seen the way the BBC is pay­ing women less for do­ing the same job. What’s im­por­tant is that the BBC looks at the ques­tion of pay­ing men and women the same for do­ing the same job.”

— Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May

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