The BBC pay gap: Anchoring society to sexism.

(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.


Did the Electorate vote for Grenfell?

Image result for telegraph grenfell inferno front pages

Over the last few weeks it has been nigh impossible to evade the inescapable coverage of the horrific Grenfell tower inferno that claimed 80 lives and destroyed countless more. Ever more shocking, arguably more so than the event itself, has been the hive of media activity whose sole purpose has been to deflect blame from those seemingly responsible.

One only need candidly observe calls from the Torygraph of “militants” apparently “hijacking” protests at the inferno’s avoidable nature. This vilifying language arguably has a lot to answer for in sowing the seeds of division between the victims of the disaster and those who may potentially be seeking to help. This also, is a prime example of the dangers of a heavily partisan press- although perhaps a topic for a different post- cannot go unnoted in light of the events the paper is covering.

It is perhaps in the smouldering embers of what once was Grenfell Tower that lies the defining image of what austerity looks like. It would be a blatant lie to deflect otherwise. This is what senior members of the fire service and police warned of if cuts to their budgets were allowed to continue and they were remorselessly starved of investment.

Shocking too, in equal measure, is the findings that have emerged since the tragedy that the cladding on the high rise tower block, situated in one of London’s most affluent suburbs lest we forget, was the main perpetrator for how the blaze spread so ferociously and quickly. However, it was the compounding of this finding, that fireproof cladding could have been purchased at a mere £400,000 extra to an £8million refurbishment budget that caused the volatile anger expressed by many in the days following the tragedy. To clarify, this cost equates to just £2 extra investment on each piece of cladding. When this is considered, people’s anger seems far more justified.

File:Grenfell Tower fire (wider view).jpg  Grenfell burns [By: Natalie Turner] [File: English: Grenfell Tower fire, 4:43 a.m.] [Public domain via WikiMedia Commons]

I spoke earlier in this post of the tower being symbolic, and now seemingly synonymous, with austerity.  And yet it is in this assessment that I can’t help but feel more than a little guilty about the events that have taken place there. Was it not on the promise of “balancing the books” that David Cameron led his Conservative Party back into Government with a resounding, strengthened majority in 2015? It is with this thought in mind that I can’t escape the notion that had we not been misled on promises of a “stronger economy” – ergo, further cuts, things might have been different. I am comforted in the fact however that nobody on the electorate side of the fence could have predicted what was to befall Grenfell. The same misgivings cannot be extended to the officials who allayed residents concerns at a lack of fire safety and prevention.

Grenfell will undoubtedly be on the minds of many for a very long time. With a public inquiry recently announced, it is important this takes all the measures it is able to in learning the lessons from this disaster so the public are not reading similar horrific news stories in a few years time.

Furthermore, if Grenfell is now symbolic of an austerity programme that places efficiency in spending before public safety then I would venture a new programme of spending for the Government. However long they remain in place, invest. And invest quickly. While the electorate were by no means to blame for this disaster, they were the innocent victims upon which the full price of austerity was laid bare.


Why this blog?

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One of the things we should all feel entitled to do in life is express an opinion. Quite right too. One of the fundamental watermarks of a free, democratic society is our ability to accomplish this and achieve it relatively untroubled. Of course, with any opinion there will be those who disagree. Opinion, of course, by its very nature is subjective. It is this inevitable subjectivity of opinion that makes it vulnerable to attack and this too is something that should be celebrated.

Arguably, it is the dogmatic rise of social media platforms that have enabled many voices to be heard- rather than silenced. It is these platforms too that have become outlets for change and movement. Now, more than ever, it is increasingly difficult to ignore dissatisfaction with those in power. In the words of Gandhi- these platforms have enabled those who use them “to be the change [they] wish to see in the world”; and this surely is another thing to celebrate.

Up to this point, it is pretty difficult to ignore the incessant usage of the word “celebrate” within this post. Well this perhaps marks a turning point within this blog. It is not intended for celebration- nor is it intended to be a pit of dissatisfaction. Just the view of one angry voice on many an issue.  And that is what this blog hopes to achieve, to express one angry voice within a sea of many. One that might be easy to ignore, but not so easy to silence.