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BBC pay review for on-air talent finds ‘no evidence of gender bias’ in salary decisions

By Freddy Mayhew

A review of pay for on-air talent at the BBC has found “no evidence of gender bias in pay decision-making” as the corporation has set out “big, bold commitments” towards equal pay.

The independent audit of 800 BBC presenters, on-air editors and correspondents working across TV and radio has identified a “number of issues” in relation to pay in its findings.

The report, carried out by financial services giant PWC and published today, found an overall median gender pay gap of 6.8 per cent (4.3 per cent mean pay gap).

It noted issues around pay including a “lack of clarity and openness about the basis for pay decisions” owing to the lack of pay ranges for on-air roles, with pay decisions often made locally.

The report said that the BBC has a “set of pay arrangements” for its on-air talent which “lack a consistent evaluation and governance framework”.

“This is not uncommon for a highly skilled and diverse group of this type,” it said, “but it falls below the high standards that the BBC sets for itself and which the licence fee paying public expect.

“As a result of this lack of consistent framework, the BBC’s approach to pay for this group has historically lacked rigour and this has resulted in anomalies for both men and women.

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“We believe the BBC should act quickly to correct these. This is likely to involve reducing the pay of some and increasing the pay of others. In terms of gender equality, we have performed detailed analysis and a thorough equal pay sampling exercise.

“Our analysis has shown that, where pay differences have been identified amongst employees in similar roles, these are typically driven by material and justifiable factors unrelated to gender.

“Examples that we have seen include level of experience, skills and market influences.

“Not everyone is paid the same, and in some cases men and women in comparable roles are paid differently. While there are some differences to address, we have not seen anything in our work which leads us to believe this is as a result of gender bias in the setting of pay.”

As part of reforms to pay structure, the BBC has said it plans to tackle five key areas.

It will make “substantial pay cuts” to salaries for some men as well as increases for some male and female presenters.

A group of six prominent male journalists in the BBC have already agreed to salary reductions including the highest-paid presenter Jeremy Vine, who earns up to £749,999 a year.

The BBC has also proposed a new on-air framework to determine pay for on-air talent, which it says will provide an “equal, fair and transparent structure for the future”.

Said a spokesperson: “We will have narrower pay bands because they have become too wide, cut the number of contracts and allowances to be simpler and fairer and have clear criteria for how pay reflects skills, experience and audience impact.”

The corporation has also pledged “greater pay transparency” – with the aim of being “the most transparent organisation when it comes to pay” – and a review of career progression and working practices for women.

It has also said it will pick up the pace on achieving 50/50 representation of men and women across the BBC by 2020 (when director general Tony Hall has pledged to close the gender pay gap) with changes to on-air line-ups being made at a “faster rate” throughout the year.

In a statement, Lord Hall has said that the BBC “believes in equality”, adding: “No-one should be paid differently because of their gender.”

He said: “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.

“The plans we’re setting out today go further and are more important steps in modernising the BBC and making it fairer.

“We’ve already made an important start. We’re addressing unfairness in individuals’ pay and want to close the gender pay gap and have women in half of our on-air roles by 2020. Those are big, bold commitments I’m really serious about.”

“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.”

Today’s on-air pay review follows a review of equal pay for rank and file staff at the corporation, which revealed a 9.3 per cent median gender pay gap.

Concerns over equal pay were brought under the spotlight after the BBC was forced to publish the salaries of its top-earning on-air talent last summer.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “This report acknowledges that there has been a serious lack of oversight when it comes to pay of on-air talent at the BBC, with unchecked managerial discretion that the NUJ believes has been a significant factor in allowing a discriminatory pay culture to flourish.

“The PWC report does not reflect the reality of the many NUJ members who are currently taking equal pay complaints at the BBC, and who the union will be supporting through legal action if sensible and fair resolutions are not reached.

“Its claim that there is no evidence of gender bias in pay decision making flies in the face of reality our members say they are experiencing. Unless the BBC stops denying there is a problem, our members will not be convinced it intends to fix it.

“Having a transparent structure with clear job rates is vital to ensure that unequal pay is eradicated at our public service broadcaster.

“Right now, however, rebuilding trust amongst women who feel rightly angered and betrayed at their treatment is the BBC’s key challenge – that means taking responsibility and committing to righting past wrongs, and having pragmatic discussions about how to remedy the historic losses women have accrued.”

Picture: Reuters/Neil Hall

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