Could the BBC face legal action from comparatively underpaid female stars?

With men making up two thirds of the BBC's top on-screen earners, serious questions are being asked about the Corporation’s gender pay imbalance


The BBC is facing serious questions about the disparity in pay between its male and female stars.


Following’s revelations more than a week ago about deep unease within the Corporation over the issue, the BBC was forced to admit that almost two thirds of its on-screen stars earning more than £150,000 a year are male – precisely, 62 men to 34 women.

Glaring pay gaps emerge from the figures, with high profile news anchors Huw Edwards and Fiona Bruce subject to a large difference in their salaries.

Edwards, whose main role is presenting the flagship 10pm news bulletin, took home between £550,000 and £600,000 in the last financial year but Bruce, who presents the 6pm news as well as Antiques Roadshow, was remunerated in the £350,000-£400,000 bracket.

The highest paid male star at the BBC is Chris Evans with between £2.2 and £2.25m, while the highest paid woman is Claudia Winkleman with less than a quarter of that, between £450,000 and £500,000.

Match of the Day’s Gary Lineker’s pay is in the £1.75-£1.8m bracket with his colleague Alan Shearer taking home between £400,00 and £450,000. The highest paid female sports host is Sue Barker with between £300,000 and £350,000, while Clare Balding, who presented the Olympics and many other BBC programmes, earned between £150,000 and £200,000.

Broadcasters such as the Today programme’s Sarah Montague and Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis do not make the list of those paid over £150,000 – but colleagues on the shows including John Humphrys, Nick Robinson and Evan Davis do.

The seven top-earning BBC stars are all male: Chris Evans, Gary Lineker, Graham Norton, Jeremy Vine, John Humphrys, Huw Edwards and Steve Wright.

Today Tony Hall pledged to seek to remedy the problem saying of the discrepancy: “Is that where we want to be? No.”

He has also promised that by 2020 all the leading and presenting roles will be equally divided between men and women.

However, Hall insisted that Sarah Montague is not the lowest paid Today presenter, saying: “I don’t want to talk about individuals when it comes to the Today programme but let me just say that you would be wrong to say that the lowest paid member of the presenting team was a woman. Leave it at that.”

A senior BBC source suggested that the lowest paid was actually Justin Webb. His pay is listed at between £150,000 and £200,000 but, according to the source, his Today earnings, not including his pay for other BBC work, are lower than Montague’s for her work on the programme.

Asked at a press conference today whether the publication of the pay figures would present a “lawyer’s charter” for the BBC, with many women seeking to claim gender discrimination because of their pay, Hall said: “We will be working carefully and managing carefully our relationships with the talent we depend on.”

He added: “Our job now is to manage this. We can’t let [pay rises] be inflationary.

“I have believed strongly since I came back to the BBC on getting to a position where we are equal between men and women on all of our outputs and also on pay as well.”