BBC to switch men for women on screen

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Robert Men­dick CHIEF RE­PORTER

The BBC plans to re­place men with women on ra­dio and tele­vi­sion pro­grammes as it tries to deal with the gen­der pay gap. In­sid­ers have said that, rather than raise their salaries, the BBC will seek to boost women’s pay by giv­ing them plum jobs cur­rently filled by male pre­sen­ters.

THE BBC is plan­ning to take men off ra­dio and tele­vi­sion pro­grammes and re­place them with women in an at­tempt to close the gen­der pay gap, The Daily Tele­graph can dis­close.

But the prospect of re­plac­ing hig­h­earn­ing male stars when con­tracts come up for re­newal could fur­ther open up the BBC to sex dis­crim­i­na­tion claims – this time by male celebri­ties.

Lord Hall, the BBC’S di­rec­tor-gen­eral, has promised to end the gen­der pay gap by 2020, giv­ing the cor­po­ra­tion just three years to en­sure women re­ceive equal pay. This week­end more than 40 high-pro­file women at the BBC wrote an open let­ter to him de­mand­ing that he “act now”.

With the bud­get for “BBC tal­ent” earn­ing more than £150,000 con­strained by spend­ing con­trols, the BBC can only in­crease women’s pay by cut­ting that of men.

Lord Hall said last week the to­tal bud­get for tal­ent can­not be al­lowed to in­crease.

While some male stars may vol­un­teer pay cuts, it is un­likely that the kind of sav­ings needed can be se­cured. The to­tal sums paid to 96 stars earn­ing more than £150,000 is just un­der £30mil­lion. Women, who make up about a third of the list, are reck­oned to re­ceive about a quar­ter of the £30m to­tal.

In­sid­ers have said that the BBC will seek to boost women’s pay by giv­ing them plum jobs when con­tracts of male pre­sen­ters come up for re­newal.

A BBC spokesman said: “Con­tracts ob­vi­ously come up for re­newal all the time, but we’re not go­ing to carry out ne­go­ti­a­tions through the news­pa­pers. Ul­ti­mately, peo­ple will be able to judge our progress when the next fig­ures come out, just as they’ll be able to judge how other or­gan­i­sa­tions are do­ing when we all have to pub­lish gen­der pay gap fig­ures by April.”

Male celebri­ties whose pre­sent­ing

jobs could come un­der scru­tiny in­clude Gra­ham Nor­ton, who earns up to £900,000 for a Ra­dio 2 show and Euro­vi­sion; Jeremy Vine, who earns be­tween £700,000 and £750,000 for host­ing a Ra­dio 2 show and sev­eral tele­vi­sion pro­grammes; Matt Baker, pre­sen­ter of Coun­try­file and The One Show, who earns more than £450,000; and Stephen Nolan, who presents a num­ber

‘Con­tracts come up for re­newal all the time, but we’re not go­ing to ne­go­ti­ate through the news­pa­pers’

of ra­dio and tele­vi­sion pro­grammes, mainly on BBC 5 Live and in North­ern Ire­land, for which he is paid up to £450,000.

Lawyers have warned that the BBC – al­ready fac­ing le­gal ac­tion from women for sex dis­crim­i­na­tion and equal pay claims – could find it­self be­ing sued for sex dis­crim­i­na­tion by men if they are dropped from pro­grammes.

James Watkins, an em­ploy­ment lawyer with Slater and Gor­don law firm, said: “Drop­ping older, bet­ter paid male

pre­sen­ters raises the prospect of the BBC be­ing sued for sex and age dis­crim­i­na­tion. It is go­ing to be dif­fi­cult for the BBC to sim­ply shift peo­ple off cer­tain shows just be­cause they are men.”

The BBC will gam­ble that male stars, al­ready on high salaries, will not want the ad­verse pub­lic­ity if they tried to sue for sex dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Shar­ing the list of women who signed the let­ter to Lord Hall – in­clud­ing Jane Garvey, Sue Barker, Emily Maitlis, Sarah Mon­tague, Mishal Hu­sain and Fiona Bruce – Louisa Comp­ton, ed­i­tor of the Vic­to­ria Der­byshire pro­gramme, asked: “But where are all the men speak­ing out sep­a­rately?”

Maitlis, who many were shocked to find ex­cluded from the best-paid list, wrote on Twit­ter: “They are all – kindly and sup­port­ively – mes­sag­ing us in pri­vate – #now­gop­ub­lic.

Lord Hall last night said he had made the is­sue a “per­sonal pri­or­ity” for the past four years but recog­nised that “we do need to go fur­ther and faster”. He wrote: “When fig­ures are pub­lished next year, I am con­fi­dent that they will look very dif­fer­ent.”

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