Journalist Carrie Gracie has been widely praised after she resigned as the BBC’s China editor in protest at unequal pay, accusing the broadcaster of a “secretive and illegal pay culture”.
Clare Balding, Emily Maitlis and Sarah Montague were among a string of prominent BBC broadcasters to voice their support for Ms Gracie, who said the corporation was facing “a crisis of trust” by not paying its male and female workers equally.
The BBC has said it is performing “considerably better” than other organisations on gender pay, although a group representing women at the corporation said it knew of up to 200 who had lodged complaints.
After tweeting “wish me luck”, Ms Gracie was back on air presenting BBC Radio 4’s Today programme alongside John Humphrys, the BBC’s highest-paid news presenter, on Monday morning.
The show kicked off a matter of hours after her call for action through an open letter prompted an outpouring of support that saw #IStandWithCarrie become a top trending hashtag.
The BBC’s Chief International Correspondent Lyse Doucet, Radio 4 Today presenter Sarah Montague, and Jane Garvey of Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour all described Ms Gracie as “brave and brilliant”.
Ms Montague added: “Not sure what is so hard to understand about #equalpay for equal work.”
Male broadcasters from the BBC also shared their thoughts on her resignation.
Political correspondent Chris Mason described Ms Gracie’s missive as a “zinger of a letter” that was “brave, thoughtful, powerful, forensic, dignified”.
Senior journalists from rival broadcasters also backed Ms Gracie, among them Channel 4 News presenter Cathy Newman, who said it was “a tragedy for the @BBC to lose such a talented China Editor #equalpay”
Meanwhile a number of MPs voiced their support, including Labour’s Harriet Harman, Jess Phillips and Barbara Keeley and Conservative MP Nadine Dorries.
Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said it was “determined to hold the BBC to account”.
The journalist, who has been with the BBC for 30 years and described leading its China coverage since 2004 as “the greatest privilege of my career”, stated her concerns in a letter addressed to the “BBC Audience”.
She accused the corporation of a “secretive and illegal pay culture” after it was revealed two-thirds of its stars earning more than £150,000 were male.
The letter says: “With great regret, I have left my post as China Editor to speak out publicly on a crisis of trust at the BBC. The BBC belongs to you, the licence fee payer. I believe you have a right to know that it is breaking equality law and resisting pressure for a fair and transparent pay structure.”
Ms Gracie said she was not asking for a pay rise, but wanted the BBC to “simply … abide by the law and value men and women equally”.
A BBC spokesman said: “Fairness in pay is vital. A significant number of organisations have now published their gender pay figures showing that we are performing considerably better than many and are well below the national average.
“Alongside that, we have already conducted an independent judge-led audit of pay for rank and file staff which showed ‘no systemic discrimination against women’. A separate report for on-air staff will be published in the not too distant future.”
Ms Gracie, who is a China specialist and fluent in Mandarin, said she left her post as China editor last week.
She said she would return to the TV newsroom “where I expect to be paid equally”.