Today presenter Sarah Montague has said that the revelation of the BBC’s gender pay gap earlier this year was “professionally damaging” as well as “surprising”.
The presenter, who was revealed to earn a great deal less than her male colleagues on the Today programme when the pay of the BBC’s top talent was made public last summer, says that she didn’t realise how stark the gap was before the figures were disclosed.
She tells this week’s Radio Times: “Yes, there were some things that I found very surprising. I get paid very well for a job I love, but I didn’t know how unfair it was. Also I didn’t realise how professionally damaging it was. Mishal [Husain] and I took the uncomfortable step of going public after the pay disclosures, and what that opened up was the scale of the problem. Hopefully, it will lead to change. There is an underlying pay gap that there should not be. Why should somebody be paid less for doing the same work?
“The BBC should not be doing things unfairly. We sit in that studio and challenge people over being unfair, so the BBC, of all places, should be fair. In terms of whether something is morally the right thing to do, then the BBC should be way ahead of the curve.”
Montague was not on the list of BBC stars earning more than £150,000 when the figures were published.
Her Radio 4 colleague Mishal Husain earned between £200,000 and £249,000 in the same period while fellow Today broadcaster John Humphrys took home between £600,000 and £649,999 in the year to April 2017, according to BBC figures.
But she says it does not make life in the studio uncomfortable. “At the top of the BBC, they know what each other is paid. It doesn’t affect individual relationships, if that’s what you’re asking. But it does make you think differently about those who are deciding. It’s weird, because we all know each other very well. That’s just the nature of spending three hours of intense live broadcasting. You rely on each other. You have to have good relationships.”
Montague is the second longest-serving presenter after Humphrys but wouldn’t say whether she will be there in ten years time when the show celebrates its 70th anniversary.
“Well, it’s the best [answer] you’ll get… I’ll tell you what, actually I won’t. I’ve done it for 17 years and that would be 27.”
You can find the full piece in this week’s Radio Times, on sale in shops and on the newsstand from Tuesday October 31