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Happy BBC Salary Day

Katie Armour

A video praising the BBC’s “incredible year” was conveniently released yesterday around the same time as its highly anticipated Annual Report. Yet it seems despite best efforts, not even a refresher of Planet Earth 2 distracted critics from the evident pay discrepancies among radio and television’s top talent.

Under David Cameron’s premiership, the Government renegotiated the BBC’s Royal Charter and as part of the deal the pay disclosure level increased to £450,000 to placate BBC concerns about “star’s pay”. However in 2016 the Department of Culture announced this figure would be lowered to £150,000.

"BBC Salary Day" revealed that two thirds of the BBC’s highest paid employees are male, with only one woman present in the top ten.

Chris Evan’s income surpassed the 95 fellow stars on the list as he took home between £2.2-2.5m in 2015-16 for his work on Radio 2’s breakfast show and the notoriously unsuccessful Top Gear re-launch.

Other notable comparisons include:

  • Match of the Day presenter, Gary Linekar, who was paid £1.75m alongside fellow seasoned sports commentators Claire Balding and Sue Barker who have salaries of £150,000 - £199,999 and £300,000 - £349,999 respectively.
  • Primetime newsreader Huw Edwards earns in the region of £200,000 more than his counterpart Fiona Bruce.
  • Matt Baker and Alex Jones, who co-present the One Show, were a pay band apart.

In the sphere of political presenting, this theme is echoed. Laura Kuenssberg and Andrew Neil fell within the £200,000 - £249,999 bracket, while Andrew Marr was awarded £400,000 - £499,999 and Neil’s Daily Politics Show partner, Jo Coburn, was noticeably absent from the list, therefore demanding less than £150,000.

BBC Director General, Tony Hall, stressed it was his “real ambitionto ensure equal pay is achieved by 2020. He defended the BBC, saying it had “set the most stretching targets in the industry for on-air diversity” and was competing in a market where it didn’t have the power to set the rates, but acknowledged there was “more to do”.

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader and equalities campaigner, Jo Swinson, said the figures ought to be “a really strong wake-up call”. In 2015 she wrote:Not only is the gender pay gap socially wrong in modern society, but economically it’s nonsensical not to reward our most talented female employees properly”. Today she suggested that pay gap transparency and mandatory reporting would aid progress and help to pierce the evident “bubble of complacency”.

Gender equality champion, Harriet Harman, was also a harsh critic of the revelations, and said: “Everybody talks the talk of equality, but what’s shown is they are not walking the walk”. Arguing that public money must be spent fairly, she claimed that now the truth was “out in the open” things would have to change.

Andrew Marr remarked that the obligation to publish individual salaries was "uncomfortable" for the BBC, but the results were uncomfortable for the nation as a whole. Amid the ongoing conflict on the public sector pay cap the release of top pay details was always going to attract disapproval. It was however the gender pay imbalance that resonated most with a public who discovered the beloved British broadcasting service they fund is far from achieving equality.

Westminster breaks for summer recess this week so we will have to wait until September, or maybe even after conference season, to see if yet more evidence of gender inequality inspires further action.

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