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BBC reveals pay-packets of top talent, fuelling gender pay gap debate

By | Published on Thursday 20 July 2017


So there was much chatter yesterday about the monies paid to the BBC’s top on-air talent, after the Corporation was forced by the UK government to reveal what it paid to actors, presenters and journalists who are on a salary over £150,000.

The Corporation’s deals with on-air talent have previously been secret, but ministers insisted that the Beeb’s highly paid celebs should be subject to the same scrutiny as behind the scenes executives. The government’s aim, of course, was to ensure transparency for licence fee payers or to embarrass an institution that they and their media mogul mates despise, depending on your viewpoint.

Precise salaries weren’t revealed, rather actors, presenters and journalists were listed under a series of different pay brackets. The disclosure also doesn’t include any on-air names who appear in BBC programmes made by independent producers and who are therefore not directly paid by the Beeb.

Payments received for projects run by the BBC’s commercial wing BBC Worldwide were also not included. Which means some big names don’t appear at all, while those that do appear might actually be earning more once fees from independent producers and BBC Worldwide are taken into account.

Some BBC personalities are on pretty damn big salaries, with Chris Evans topping the list having been paid at least £2.2 million in the last financial year.

Though, Radio 4 presenter John Humphries made a decent point when asked about his salary of at least £600,000. He said that while – when compared to what people in some other professions are paid, like “a doctor who saves a child’s life, a nurse who comforts a dying person, or a fireman who rushes into Grenfell Tower” – his pay seems wildly excessive, in the context of the business he is in that’s a pretty standard fee.

And Evans, after all, hosts one of the biggest radio shows in the world. Meanwhile other celebs on the BBC payroll could probably increase their salaries if they took jobs in the commercial sector, and even more so if they could find an opening in the US. Meanwhile, with Amazon and Netflix now also seeking top talent for their original programming, fees on offer outside the Beeb are only going up.

Which doesn’t make it any less crazy that people get paid so much more money to pretend to save lives on shows like ‘Casualty’ and ‘Holby City’ than they would to actually save lives in a real hospital, but that’s not the fault of the BBC.

Though, actually, much of the backlash against the BBC’s big talent pay-packet reveal yesterday was less focused on how much the big names get, and more on the fact that the big name male personalities are generally earning much more than the big name female personalities. In some cases there are men on the list whose female colleagues – who do the same job – don’t even appear, meaning they are paid less than £150,000.

Gender inequality when it comes to pay isn’t a uniquely BBC problem by any means, though as a state-owned broadcaster it probably should be playing a proactive role in endeavouring to overcome this inequity. Most of the men who appeared on yesterday’s list called out their employer on this issue, though – given the BBC remains under pressure to save money – it’s not clear whether any of them would take a pay-cut to so that their female colleagues could get a concurrent pay-rise to ensure more equal pay overall.

BBC boss Tony Hall conceded that issues remain in the gender pay gap – and the lack of ethnic diversity amongst the highest paid personalities – though he argued that the Corporation is already working on shifting things in the right direction.

He said yesterday: “On gender and diversity, the BBC is more diverse than the broadcasting industry and the Civil Service. We have set the most stretching targets in the industry for on-air diversity and we’ve made progress, but we recognise there is more to do and we are pushing further and faster than any other broadcaster”.

He went on: “At the moment, of the talent earning over £150,000, two thirds are men and one third are women. We’ve set a clear target for 2020: we want all our lead and presenting roles to be equally divided between men and women. And it’s already having an impact. If you look at those on the list who we have hired or promoted in the last three years, 60% are women and nearly a fifth come from a [black, Asian or ethnic minority] background”.

Concluding, Hall said: “Meeting our goal on this is going to have a profound impact not just on the BBC, but the whole media industry. It’s going to change the market for talent in this country”.