The BBC's ‘Secretive and Illegal Pay Culture’

Following the revelation that the BBC are paying men 9.3% more than women on average, and that close to 500 employees are paid less than their counterparts on the basis of their gender, one of the corporations most senior journalists has now tendered her resignation.

Carrie Gracie, the BBC’s China editor, has stepped down, accusing the firm of having a “secretive and illegal” pay culture, stating that she didn’t have faith in management to actually deal with the problem.

Having worked for the BBC for 30 years, Gracie is widely regarded as one of the broadcasters most talented journalists, but claimed there is a “crisis of trust” that permeated the corporation, which is, “not living up to its stated values of trust, honesty and accountability”.

Gracie learnt that of the BBC’s four international editors, the two men were paid at least 50% more than their female counterparts. Confirming that she was not seeking more money for herself, Gracie said she would remain with the BBC, but only to, “return to my former post in the TV newsroom where I expect to be paid equally.”

In demanding that the BBC observe British law requiring equal pay, Gracie wrote: “The BBC must admit the problem, apologise and set in place an equal, fair and transparent pay structure.

“Rather than waste money on an “unwinnable court fight against female staff, the BBC should immediately agree to independent arbitration to settle individual cases.”

The Furore

The row surrounding pay at the BBC erupted last summer when it was revealed that the corporation’s highest paid talent was mostly men, with the top earners earning considerably more than their female co-stars.

In response, some of the highest profile female stars, including Clare Balding, Fiona Bruce and Emily Maitlis, penned an open letter to the director general Tony Hall demanding change. This lead the BBC to investigate its pay structure, which in turn revealed that male employees are paid 9.3% more than women.

Now public support for Carrie has been overwhelming, with Clare Balding, Kirsty Wark and Sarah Montague all using the #IStandWithCarrie hashtag on Twitter.

Ms. Wark tweeted:

“.@BBCCarrie is an outstanding and principled journalist and I am proud to stand with her #bbcwomen #equalpay #istandwithcarrie

Penning an open letter, which was first picked up from BuzzFeed, Carrie wrote:

“The BBC belongs to you, the licence fee payer. I believe you have a right to know that it is breaking equality law and resisting pressure for a fair and transparent pay structure.”

“On pay, the BBC is not living up to its stated values of trust, honesty and accountability.

“Salary disclosures the BBC was forced to make six months ago revealed not only unacceptably high pay for top presenters and managers but also an indefensible pay gap between men and women doing equal work. These revelations damaged the trust of BBC staff. For the first time, women saw hard evidence of what they’d long suspected, that they are not being valued equally.

“Many have since sought pay equality through internal negotiation but managers still deny there is a problem. This bunker mentality is likely to end in a disastrous legal defeat for the BBC and an exodus of female talent at every level.”

Called “brave and brilliant” by Lyse Doucet, the BBC’s chief international correspondent, the letter was also heralded by Jane Garvey, presenter of BBC’s Woman’s Hour who tweeted, “As we’ve said from the start: we are privileged women. We must use that privilege to ensure equal pay becomes a reality for all.”

The BBC Response

Reaffirming its commitment to equal pay, a spokeswoman at the BBC issued the following statement:

“A significant number of organizations have now published their gender pay figures showing that we are performing considerably better than many and are well below the national average.

“Alongside that, we have already conducted an independent judge-led audit of pay for rank and file staff which showed ‘no systemic discrimination against women.”

So what do we take away from this? A 9.3% pay gap is considerably better than other companies such as Easyjet and Ladbrokes, whose eye-opening pay gap reports were released last week. However, it’s clear to see that the issue is still endemic within the corporation, and it’s not clear whether the statement is simply lip service, or whether real change is afoot.

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