(BBC Building Portland Place) [Image by Christine Matthews via Geograph]
It was met with outrage, surprise and shock- not least from this writer. Revelations earlier this month that the BBC was paying out such vast sums of licence- fee payer’s money on it’s flagship’s stars’ salaries after conditions in it’s Charter– the pact between the Public Service Broadcaster and the Government outlining the conditions under which the BBC receives it’s funding- obliged it to reveal a host of names employed by the corporation who earn above £150,000 in pay.
More shocking however, was what the list revealed about the disunity in pay levels between it’s male and female presenters. Highlighted no more clearly when observing the monstrous pay packet of presenter ‘heavyweights’ such as Radio 2 presenter Chris Evans on a cool £2.2million annual salary, to that of their female counterparts with Claudia Winkleman coming in as the corporation’s highest paid female presenter on just over a quarter of Evans’ salary at £525,000. The toughest part of this is that whilst Winkleman’s salary places her on the list- she comes in only seventh on it, placing 6 men in front of her. Troubling still, is news that Winkleman is the corporation’s highest paid female presenter, anyone else on presenting duties is on invariably less. Victoria Derbyshire? Louise Minchin? Or the One Show’s Alex Jones? Less. Nobody can deny the talent of these female presenters, nor that they work any fewer hours than their male counterparts. The resulting pay for these equal efforts though is altogether different. It seems, to put it crudely, the only difference between the hosts is that females are being punished with a fraction of their male colleagues pay simply for being women. This is perhaps what prompted the writing and signing of an open letter to the BBC backed by many of the corporations presenters. One can only hope that in response to this, these concerns are addressed.
Indeed, it was in the following days of the list being published that led BBC Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine- who himself was challenged by a caller to his programme to defend his own pay packet in excess of £700,000 – to caption a cartoon that appeared in broadsheet newspaper, The Telegraph, remarking that he “hope my children won’t understand” the content which purported that men read an auto-cue more expensively. And with good reason. Why, in 21st century Britain are we caught up in a discussion about pay? Why, in 21st century Britain are we talking about a draconian pay structure that degrades and punishes women based purely on a gender criteria? In the past, women adopted different roles of being homemakers and raising children often seen as priorities over any career in what was a heavily sexist, squandering society. But times change. Attitudes change. And the remnants of a sexist era still transmitted in an archaic pay structure should be exterminated. That pay is still an issue among the sexes sounds ridiculous to write. Unbelievable then, that we’re still witnessing it.
There is a stringent argument that the BBC is paying less for their prized presenters than some commercial competitors might well be able to afford. While this is all well and good that the presenters feel loyalty towards their employer- it still leaves the crucial question unsatisfactorily addressed. More money, these stars could afford elsewhere may be the case- then why not exercise their influence in instigating change and demanding equal pay? Inaction results in stalemate on the issue. Something the BBC, at least from a PR perspective, one imagines will be keen to avoid.
It is these revelations about pay that have perhaps led to the blushing of a corporation that seeks to be the flagship of equality- at least on the screen. It’s time this was transmitted behind- the-scenes. The hardest thing for director- general Tony Hall to stomach will be that, now this information has come to light, this destructive pay gap whilst commonplace in the 1960’s is something that should have been eradicated by now. And yet evidently, it persists. This pay gap should be crushed, and crushed quickly.