Industry reacts as BBC salary list reveals major gender disparity among top earners

BBC salary list reveals major gender disparity among top earners, industry reacts

The BBC's disclosure of staff that earn more than £150,000 a year has highlighted significant gender and race imbalances within the media organisation, undermining its position as a public broadcaster while throwing a spotlight on a much wider equality issue across the industry.

Women make up only one third of the top earners, with many in similar roles as men receiving significantly lower salaries.

Topping the list is Chris Evans who was paid at least £2.2m by the BBC last year while Gary Lineker was paid more than £1.75m and Graham Norton over £850,000.

While 12 men are listed as earning more than £400,000, there are only two women on this pay bracket – Claudia Winkleman, the presenter of Strictly Come Dancing, and Alex Jones, presenter of One Show who earns the same as her male counterpart Matt Baker.

Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’s political editor, earns between £200,000 and £249,999 – less than Eddie Mair, host of BBC Radio 4's daily news magazine PM, who earns between £300,000 and £349,999.

The Guardian has also listed some high-profile female absentees from the list. Emily Maitlis, the newsreader, Sarah Montague, the presenter of the Today programme on Radio 4, and Louise Minchin, who presents BBC Breakfast, do not earn more than £150,000 a year according to the published list.

By comparison, Huw Edwards, who presents the 10 O'Clock News as well as major events and documentaries, earns between £550,000 and £599,999, and Dan Walker, who presented Breakfast, Football Focus and Olympic coverage in 2016, was paid between £200,000 to £249,999.

John Humphrys, who presents Today and Mastermind, earns £600,000 to £649,999 - more than double Mishal Husain, his female counterpart on the Radio 4 Today programme who earns between £200,000 and £250,000.

What's more, just one-tenth (11%) of the top talent is from a black, ethnic, minority background (BAME). Trevor Nelson, a BBC Radio DJ, and George Alagiah, presenter of BBC News at Six, are among the highest paid in this category, with salaries of between £250,000 and £300,000.

The publishing of the report has been met with mixed reaction. Many commentators believe the list could have a detrimental effect to the BBC, lead to a rise in inflation, and therefore a knock on effect on the other broadcasters in the UK when they are trying to attract talent.

The gender chasm is not solely a BBC issue

Kat Gordon, founder, 3% Conference, said wage equality "is the last frontier towards true diversity".

"No organization can claim it values all talent equally when paying different groups unequally. My advice to the BBC is the same as to the ad industry overall: do a wage audit and correct any discrepancies immediately," said Gordon.

But Pippa Glucklich, chief executive of Starcom, believes the report is a symptom of a wider issue at play - that while the world scrutinises this list of 96 high earners, it must remember this divide "is not just confined to the BBC".

"There’s clearly still so much to be done until parity of pay is achieved for male and female employees and not just at the BBC – this only serves to confirm what we already know about gender pay inequality," she said.

"Leaders of all businesses and organisations across the country need to take stock and take action to collectively fix this - and soon."

Glucklich pointed to the progress made under director-general Tony Hall's leadership, which has seen more than 60% of appointments to BBC jobs paying more than £150,000 to women since 2013.

"It’s certainly a step in the right direction but many more steps need to be made, to drive equal opportunity and fairness in every role and salary level," she said.

Jo Sutherland, the managing director at Fetch, said it would be interesting to do the same analysis with other broadcasters: "I fear the BBC isn’t alone in their pay inequality for women."

Allison Upton, marketing director at Major Players, agreed that the creative industry as a whole is "stuck in a time warp and is a far worse culprit of discrimination than many other UK sectors". This, she believes, is especially true in the agency world.

In March Major Players conducted a salary survey which found of 3,200 respondents, men were being paid up to 25% more than women.

Upton believes it's not only a moral issue but is affecting brands commercially as the work being produced is "clearly skewed from a male perspective and not representative of target audiences". This is especially damaging to the BBC, which has a remit to represent Britain in all its diversity.

A Daily Mail-led agenda

Gill Hind, chief operating officer, Enders Analysis, believes the publication of the salaries is a politically-driven move influenced by a "Daily Mail-led issue" that looks to undermine public broadcasting by spotlighting the high salaries paid for by the licence fee payers.

Ironically though, the analyst believes that the report will lead to further inflation, forcing the price up for everyone, including the licence fee payer.

"I don't see who benefits from releasing these figures," she said. "If you can see that you are a talent and you are on £120,000 and someone else is on £160,000 for a similar role, all you are doing is forcing the price up for everyone, not just for the BBC but other players in the market."

"If it does lead to inflation it is the licence fee payers who clearly don’t benefit from that," she added.

Commentators have also pointed out that Paul Dacre, the editor-in-chief of the Daily Mail and a fervent opponent of the BBC, was paid £1.5m in 2016 - which would make him the third best paid person at the BBC.

TV is already under pressure from the digital giants Netflix and Amazon who are forcing the price up because of the amount they are investing in UK content with productions like The Crown.

Should inflation rise, this will put the BBC in a inferior position to invest in content that can compete on this scale, Hind believes: "We have to remember that the salaries may appear high but it is a wide marketplace they are competing in. The consumers, the viewers, they want to see the top people, they want their shows to be as good as they possibly can."

Undermining public service broadcasting

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) on the other hand has welcomed the publication of the salaries, believing it will lead to "openness and transparency" at every level within the BBC.

The NUJ has long called for a review of the terms and conditions of senior BBC executives, said Séamus Dooley, acting general secretary of the NUJ. He called for urgent action to address the gender pay gap and broader issues of diversity within the BBC.

He said: "The NUJ represents a vast number of talented, underpaid and badly resourced members within the BBC. Use of the word 'talent' to describe just the top layer of workers is misleading in that every programme depends on a dedicated and talented staff, many of whom earn a fraction of that paid to the top stars."

But he warned against using the salaries "as a weapon to undermine public service broadcasting", by those with a political or commercial agenda.

"The BBC is the leading public service broadcaster in the world and it is vital that it is given the resources to provide a world class service," he added.

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Jessica Goodfellow

The Drum's media reporter covering everything from publishing, TV, social media, radio and technology.

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