BBC Women lobby group outlines horror stories of unequal pay to MPs

The group puts its case to Parliament ahead of the BBC’s publication of its plans to address the gender pay gap

BBC Broadcasting House pic

A group of female BBC broadcasters have outlined stories of pay inequality to MPs as both sides gear up for a showdown on the issue this week.

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The evidence from the 170-strong BBC Women lobby group to the Department of Culture Media and Sport’s [DCMS] select committee includes various case studies from women outlining their experiences of gender pay inequality at the Corporation. Most have chosen not to give their names “out of concern for their BBC careers”.

One TV news presenter gives evidence highlighting the BBC’s panic over the subject when it was forced to publish the pay of staff earning more than £150,000 last summer.

The presenter writes: “In 2017 just before the BBC published pay over £150,000, I was called unexpectedly and offered an immediate pay rise. It became apparent that for nearly 3 years I had been sitting next to a man doing an identical job who was being paid tens of thousands of pounds more. As we are both BBC staff that means I have not just missed out on pay, but on pension contributions too. I am told that we are now being paid at the same rate per day, but there is no transparency.”

A national radio presenter with more than 20 years’ experience recounts how in 2014 she was offered a contract to present a flagship arts programme.

She writes: “Two men with no broadcasting experience who had also been given trial shifts presenting the programme during the search for a new presenter were paid 25% more per programme. Then I found out that the existing male presenter was being paid 50% more than me per programme. When I asked for the pay gap to be corrected the line manager told me ‘the BBC doesn’t do equal pay’, and that in raising the issue I was being ‘aggressive’. I refused to back down and eventually was given the same rate as my male colleague and it was backdated.”

A female sports broadcaster also submitted evidence to the committee about gender inequality within the BBC’s pay structures.

She writes: “I have worked for the BBC for almost 30 years, both staff and freelance. I present major sports coverage on national radio. In 2017 my contract was worth £19,000 for 50 days, reporting and presenting. This is an average day rate of £380. When I present one of the flagship radio sports programmes I am paid £500. I have been told the male presenter is paid £1200. Since raising the issue of equal pay I have been offered £650 which is still a long way short of equal pay. What you are worth is solely at the whim of management who essentially in sport are always men. I’m at the top of my game, knowledgeable and with three decades of experience yet I’m scratching around to earn a living.”

The evidence comes ahead of a crunch Parliamentary hearing on Wednesday when the DCMS committee will hear from BBC presenter Carrie Gracie who resigned as China editor over the issue as well as senior BBC managers including director general Tony Hall.

The publication of the evidence also comes ahead of the the BBC’s disclosure of its own plans to remedy the problem with its On Air Review, details of which are expected to be made public on Tuesday.

In its evidence to MPs, BBC Women confirms that it rejects the review even before it is published.

“BBC Women have no confidence in this On Air Review (OAR),” their submission reads. “From the outset we asked to be consulted about its scope, terms of reference and methodology but the BBC went ahead without our input or involvement.

“We feel we have been excluded from the process which raises questions about who has and has not been included in the review and how that might skew the findings. It remains unclear to us what criteria were used to decide who has been included in the OAR and why and this has led to a lack of confidence in the whole process and the findings of the Review.”

Tony Hall has promised to stamp out gender pay inequality at the BBC by 2020.

A source confirmed the BBC’s plans to publish its findings on gender pay for correspondents, presenters and on-air editors and a full management response.

Said the source: “We will give presenters the full opportunity to engage and comment on the proposals. They will allow for an informed discussion.  The final proposals will also be reviewed by a QC.

“The BBC’s proposals will be wide ranging and be a significant overhaul of how we manage on air pay.

“The BBC will replace its old pay model for presenters and propose a new framework.

That framework will have transparency at its heart. It will enable presenters to know where they stand and ensure they have knowledge about their pay relative to others. It will be rooted in fairness and equality. Alongside that, it will be informed by data and analysis.

“A number of BBC staff – on and off air, male as well as female – have raised issues with their pay with the BBC. We are working hard to address these.

“The BBC does not believe that there are problems at all levels of the BBC.  This is not about the many.  As the equal pay report for around 18,000 staff, carried out by Eversheds and PwC, concluded, there was no evidence of systemic gender discrimination.

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“The BBC has more to do. That’s why the BBC will act to put right the shortcomings of the past and accept that we have got some presenters’ pay wrong.”