BBC denies gender bias as women staff denounce unequal pay

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LONDON (Reuters) – Women working for the BBC have complained they are paid less than men in equivalent jobs and accused managers of misleading them about their pay to hide widespread gender discrimination at Britain’s public broadcaster.

But the BBC published a review of the pay of some 800 on-air staff, produced by PwC, which found no evidence of gender bias in pay decision-making at the broadcaster, a cherished institution funded by a licence fee levied on TV viewers.

The BBC has been struggling to quell anger among female employees since it had to name its best-paid on-air staff last July and disclose their pay bands, revealing that two-thirds of them were men of whom some were paid far more than female peers.

Female staff seeking redress have become bogged down in opaque internal processes, according to BBC Women, a group of 170 staff.

“Women have experienced veiled threats made against them when they raised the subject of equal pay,” the group said in written evidence to parliament’s media committee, which is due to hear evidence on BBC pay on Wednesday.

The BBC admits to a gender pay gap of 9 percent, meaning more men are in better paid jobs, but says this is narrower than the British average of 18 percent. The corporation does not admit to paying women less than men for equal work.

But the PwC review’s findings are unlikely to satisfy aggrieved female staff. BBC Women said it had no confidence in the review.

The group provided 14 examples of women who described frustrating battles with managers over pay discrimination.

“I have co-presented with a male colleague for many years … I estimate he’s paid around double what I earn for doing the same job,” said one of the unnamed women in a typical submission. “I raised the equal pay issue many times over the years, but nothing was done.”

PAY CUTS FOR MEN

Parliament’s media committee is due to hear oral evidence on Wednesday from Carrie Gracie, the BBC’s former China editor who quit this month in protest over being paid less than her male peers, and from BBC Director-General Tony Hall.

The BBC will propose a pay cap of 320,000 pounds ($450,000) per year for news presenters as part of a wider restructuring of pay, its own media editor reported on Tuesday.

But lawmaker Damian Collins, chair of the media committee, said the cap would have made no difference in Gracie’s case. Her annual pay as China editor was 135,000 pounds while her counterpart Jon Sopel, North America editor, was paid between 200,000 and 250,000.

Sopel was one of six high-profile male presenters and journalists who agreed to take pay cuts after Gracie’s resignation, but Collins said that would not address what he called “the lack of equal pay throughout the organisation”.

The pay issue has led to bizarre situations on BBC radio and TV, with some people whose own pay packages were part of the debate presenting news programmes covering the topic.

On the day when news of Gracie’s resignation broke, she was co-presenting the flagship morning radio programme Today with John Humphrys, a BBC veteran whose annual pay of over 600,000 pounds was one of the most controversial disclosures.

Humphrys is one of the six men who have agreed to pay cuts.

“I have co-presented with a male colleague for many years … I estimate he’s paid around double what I earn for doing the same job,” said one of the unnamed women in a typical submission. “I raised the equal pay issue many times over the years, but nothing was done.”

PAY CUTS FOR MEN

Parliament’s media committee is due to hear oral evidence on Wednesday from Carrie Gracie, the BBC’s former China editor who quit this month in protest over being paid less than her male peers, and from BBC Director-General Tony Hall.

The BBC will propose a pay cap of 320,000 pounds ($450,000) per year for news presenters as part of a wider restructuring of pay, its own media editor reported on Tuesday.

But lawmaker Damian Collins, chair of the media committee, said the cap would have made no difference in Gracie’s case. Her annual pay as China editor was 135,000 pounds while her counterpart Jon Sopel, North America editor, was paid between 200,000 and 250,000.

Sopel was one of six high-profile male presenters and journalists who agreed to take pay cuts after Gracie’s resignation, but Collins said that would not address what he called “the lack of equal pay throughout the organisation”.

The pay issue has led to bizarre situations on BBC radio and TV, with some people whose own pay packages were part of the debate presenting news programmes covering the topic.

On the day when news of Gracie’s resignation broke, she was co-presenting the flagship morning radio programme Today with John Humphrys, a BBC veteran whose annual pay of over 600,000 pounds was one of the most controversial disclosures.

Humphrys is one of the six men who have agreed to pay cuts.

Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Larry King and Robin Pomeroy

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