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The BBC 96: The Pay Dispute And Its Ramifications

24/07/2017 13:28

Amid all the ranting and raging about BBC pay, there were some serious issues raised and some comical moments too. Watching and listening to the BBC broadcast shows talking about themselves often falls into the latter category. Dan Walker tweeting newspapers to get their facts right and Jeremy Vine tackling callers about his own pay just has to make you smile. But of course the BBC finds nothing more interesting than talking about itself at times.

To be fair there were some good interviews and fair points raised. Such as John Humphrys telling Radio 4's The Media Show that he welcomed the disclosure of salaries (indeed had pushed bosses to reveal his pay years before) but was angered by the disparity between men and women. Would he take a pay cut himself to address those differences? Yes he said; although when pushed by Amol Rajan he wouldn't be specific about how much he would happily lose.

Away from the BBC's navel gazing, were the "how can he/she be paid THAT?" type comments. Whatever your thoughts on BBC pay, whether you like someone or not is frankly irrelevant. I am not a fan of Steve Wright, have never liked his radio show, but that doesn't automatically mean I don't think he is worth around £500k a year. He is certainly paid a lot in radio terms, but could have in the past, commanded a higher sum from the commercial sector. He has also been with the BBC for more than three decades and therefore his 'salary' will have risen over time.

However, I look at someone like Gary Lineker and think; is it worth paying someone nearly two million pounds to present (mostly) football highlights? Does anyone ever watch Match of the Day because of Lineker? Unlikely. If he is being paid that much by the BBC, I want to see him more often. I want to see him present Homes Under The Hammer, I want him making sport specials. Basically, I want to see value. But where this disclosure of salaries is so flawed is that it is not the whole story, by a long way. Fees paid through outside companies and agents are not included and we don't exactly know what the money is for. Some people will do more programmes than others. Lauren Laverne may contribute more output and appear on more platforms than others paid less, but we do not know.

Which leads me to someone like Jane Garvey and the serious issue of the gender pay gap. A consummate professional and one of the best broadcasters of her generation (here I am being subjective) she was not on the list of the 'BBC 96' (as they've become known). Quite rightly outraged by the revelations - I wish her well in a bid to be recognised as generously as some of her colleagues. I find it hard to believe that the BBC did not see this coming, and in fact the corporation has already moved to reduce the impact of these pay revelations in future by changing the way people are paid. Thus avoiding disclosure. So I think it deserves this backlash.

On the gender pay gap, I find it hard to imagine why there would be any wage difference between a man and a woman doing the same job (any job; broadcast journalist, nurse, secretary etc). But the media industry does get hammered for its representation more than other industries. We are a visible presence obviously, so must lead the way in displaying equal opportunity. But when I travel around Europe to corporate exhibitions, I still see 90% men and sometimes the only women there are being used as models. So do not think for one minute that the media is the worst offender. In fact, a female visitor to a recent expo told me about visiting a company in the last few years where there was no women's toilet. Something you'd imagine from the 1960s, not 2010s.

So has the BBC pay disclosure been healthy? Certainly not for the BBC itself, and maybe not for the media industry as a whole to be honest. But important debate has been sparked and unfairness highlighted. The list was very white and middle-class, another huge issue for the BBC. As the licence fee is compulsory, I think it is right we know where the money is spent and whom it is spent on. But we need to have full disclosure, not this halfway house. I think the BBC is amazing value for money but it is not without serious flaws. The debate around pay may help it address some of those issues.

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