BBC review finds ‘no evidence’ of gender pay bias but unveils reliance on top talent

Lineker, Norton and Evans, the BBC's top talent

The BBC has rolled out a plan to ensure more transparency around the pay of its on-air talent after the broadcaster was hit with accusations that it had a gender bias and was overpaying male staff.

Days after six male presenters, Jeremy Vine, John Humphrys, Huw Edwards, Nick Robinson, Nicky Campbell and Jon Sopel all agreed to cuts to their pay packages to address any imbalance, PwC released an independent gender pay report of 800 on-air roles at the BBC.

The report found no evidence of gender bias in the decision-making processes at the BBC. However, it found that “too much weight has been placed on the prominence and profile of certain individuals”. A majority of these individuals were male and many draw lucrative salaries. There was room for improvement in three areas in particular.

Payment decisions were being made at a local level in light of the “absence of clear pay frameworks”. There was a lack of clarity and openness around on-air pay decisions. Finally, there was a slow rate of pay progression for males and females due to recent budget constraints.

The BBC said that before the report came out, it had handled some 230 cases of pay unfairness and equality by women and men across on and off the air staff. Furthermore, it has created a new framework to determine what on-air figures should be earning and how they will progress.

Beyond the pay situation, the corporation said it was to look at ways to improve the working environment for women and will accelerate efforts to have 50:50 representation on air by 2020.

Tony Hall, director-general of the BBC, said: “The BBC believes in equality. No one should be paid differently because of their gender. The BBC has a special role representing Britain. That is why we need to be and want to be an exemplar on gender pay, and equal pay.

“Today’s report does not find evidence of gender bias in decision-making, but it shows that we have real and important issues to tackle, particularly in some areas of news and current affairs, and I’m determined to get it right.”

Hall concluded: “We are clear we’re going to tackle this and change for the better, and I hope other organisations take the same approach. The BBC can and must lead the way. I am determined that we will.”

Speaking at News Scotland’s News Academy Conference in Glasgow Tuesday 30 January, broadcaster and BBC Radio Scotland presenter Kaye Adams reflected on her time in the industry. “I never saw myself as a woman journalist, just a journalist. There is a real and systemic difference between the pay of men and women and that is something that needs to be addressed. But it is not something I have personally experienced.

She added that pay discrepancies may be present across the industry in different forms. “The interesting thing is once you get into areas of entertainment there will be instances where women are paid more than men on particular shows. I have friends who have done daytime shows and the guy has been paid less than the female star, so we have to go through the full diet of programming.”

Currently 48% of BBC staff are women, this drops to 42% of leadership. 14.5% of staff are BAME and 10.2% are disabled.

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