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Anorak | What BBC gender pay gap? Gracie and Sopel are just different people

What BBC gender pay gap? Gracie and Sopel are just different people

by | 1st, February 2018

Is it about equal pay or equal recognition? And do BBC staff do comparable jobs? What price reputation, on-screen charisma, popularity and individuality? Or is it a simple fact that you need a knob to earn the top whack at the BBC?

Former BBC China editor Carrie Gracie was giving evidence to the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee yesterday. She was angry and upset to learn that the BBC’s male Middle East and North America editors earned “at least 50% more” than their two female counterparts – the women taking home around £100,000 a year less. She left her job and is to work back in the BBC newsroom. Gracie, 55, has been at the BBC for over 30 years.

“We’re not in the business of producing toothpaste or tyres at the BBC,” she said. “Our business is truth. We can’t operate without the truth. If we’re not prepared to look at ourselves honestly, how can we be trusted to look at anything else in reporting honestly?”

Adding: “I could leave the BBC tomorrow and get a better paid job. I don’t want to leave it in this state. It is in deep trouble and we need to sort it out and I need to be there alongside the other great BBC women, helping the BBC to sort it out.”

Always interested when well-paid people at the Beeb talk about how much more they can earn elsewhere. The question is always: where? Working at the BBC for big bucks is not a sacrifice.

She then added.

“I do not want any more money, that is not what it’s about. This will not resolve my problem. My problem will be resolved by an acknowledgment that my work was of equal value to the men I served alongside as an international editor. An apology would be nice….

“One of the things that’s made me sad is the tendency for this to turn into a comparison between me and the North America editor, and me and the Middle East editor.”

But don’t we have to compare the jobs to work out how underpaid she was? Do we consider the jobs of China editor and North America editor the same?

 

 

The BBC offers some guidance:

BBC head of news Fran Unsworth said that when Gracie was appointed as China editor, her salary was actually higher than that of the Middle East and North America editors.

“At the time that we set Carrie’s pay in that role, there was no issue around gender at all,” she said.

However, after Gracie’s appointment, Jon Sopel was hired to be the new North America editor. “Jon Sopel came with a different pay history,” she said.

“He had been a BBC One presenter, he had been a presenter on World News. He was a former political editor of the News Channel. He was a former Paris correspondent. And he had accumulated a much higher salary than Carrie was on at the time as a presenter of the News Channel. And we did not cut his pay in asking him to go to North America.”

The North America editor was on air “twice as much in peak time – and that is at a busy time in the China story”, she explained.

She added: “It’s a different job, the China job. It’s a more features-based agenda, it’s not on the relentless treadmill that something like the North America editor’s job is.”

Lord Hall [BBC boss Tony Hall] added it was “a mistake not to review Carrie Gracie’s pay when the new North America editor was put in place”.

The gender pay gap wasn’t news until the BBC was forced to publish a list of its best earners. It was only then that we saw that US editor, Jon Sopel, and the Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, were earning a lot more than Gracie and Katya Adler, the Europe editor. Sopel and Bowen are familiar faces on the magic box. Adler would be hard to identify in a crowd of two women, and until Gracie became news, relatively few viewers would have known her name and face. In panic mode, after Gracie complained and a lengthy review, the BBC offered her a lump of backpay and assured her that the oversight had nothing to do with gender pay discrimination.

“I didn’t want the money,” she said. “I wanted robust data for people’s different salary levels. I wanted acknowledgment that my work was as good as my male colleagues.” The BBC told after decades at the corporation her work was in “development”. That’s absurd.

But she was well paid. And the question as to whether she was working at the same level as the more recognisable Sopel and Bowen is pertinent. Comparrisons do need to be made.



Posted: 1st, February 2018 | In: Money, News, TV & Radio Comment | TrackBack | Permalink