The former China editor of the BBC has lambasted the corporation for failing to live up to its values and not telling the truth about pay inequality.
Giving evidence before the digital, culture, sport and media committee, Carrie Gracie said she had not wanted to take the China job because of her children, but that the then head of news James Harding had begged her to go because of the lack of senior female editors.
She says she asked when she decided to take the job to be paid the same as male international editors. However, when she found, to her shock, that she was being paid considerably less, she was told that this was because she was “in development” for her first three years in post. She also stated that she was offered £45,000 following a grievance process which found that the BBC had “inadvertently” not paid her enough. She rejected the offer.
She also stated that her worst day at the BBC was after her grievance hearing when she received notes of the meeting which she described as “nine pages of errors and spin”. She said she feared the way equal pay claims were being handled would lead to women leaving the corporation and to large losses for the corporation at employment tribunals. The BBC is facing 297 equal pay claims, including 133 on-air staff and 151 off-air staff.
Gracie said her case was indicative of a much wider problem: “I was a senior person who they really wanted to keep in position … if the BBC can’t sort it out for me, then how can it sort it out for more vulnerable people who don’t have a public profile?”
Yesterday a BBC review found no evidence of gender bias in pay decision-making in the corporation.
The review of on-air pay carried out by PwC covered correspondents, presenters and on-air editors in news and news-related areas. It said that while there was no evidence of gender bias on pay, it had identified a number of issues which have resulted in “anomalies” that need addressing. These included:
PwC made a number of recommendations including a clear pay framework, narrower pay ranges, simpler contracts and allowances and improved transparency.
The BBC said there would be substantial pay cuts for some men and increases for some male and female presenters. It added that it had already addressed close to half of the 230 cases raised of pay unfairness and equality by women and men – on and off air and aims to conclude the rest by the summer.
It is also creating new on-air framework for determining the pay of people on air which it says will be fair and transparent. It will include narrower pay bands and have clear criteria for how pay reflects skills, experience and audience impact. In addition it will cut the number of contracts and allowances it uses so that the system is clearer and fairer. It adds that it aims to be “the most transparent organisation when it comes to pay” and will do more to explain the pay of each presenter paid over £150,000, “especially where they do more than one role”.
Another plank of its action plan involves reviewing the career progression and working practices for women and help more women progress more quickly at the BBC. It says it will also accelerate its work to achieve 50:50 representation across the BBC by 2020.
BBC Women, which represents 170 women at the corporation, dismissed the report and criticised it for not properly tackling equal pay. It stated: “There’s been no transparency on which individuals were included or why. The BBC has chosen who to compare with whom, and what factors justify any gaps in pay. The only mention of equal pay in the letter of engagement with PwC refers to an ‘assessment of equal pay risks’.
BBC Women had earlier called for an apology, back pay and pension adjustments following claims that the corporation broke equality laws by failing to pay women fairly. In a submission to parliament’s digital, culture, media and sport committee, the group said they have faced “veiled threats” from management when asking for equal pay. Their statement to the committee notes: “While individual BBC managers have been supportive, there is still a bunker mentality in some quarters.”