BBC Salaries Front Pages Prompt Awkward Moment On Today Programme

That must have been uncomfortable.

Astute Radio 4 listeners may have picked up on a rather awkward moment on Thursday’s Today programme as presenters discussed the recent BBC pay revelations.

While rounding up the front pages, Sarah Montague described the Sun’s splash, which features the headline “Awkward!”, alongside a picture of BBC Breakfast hosts Dan Walker and Louise Minchin.

The Sun's front page on Thursday focussed on BBC pay
The Sun's front page on Thursday focussed on BBC pay
The Sun

Montague explained: “Louise Minchin’s face as she’s sitting alongside Dan Walker, who’s only been on the programme a fraction of the time she has.

“She is not on the list that was published yesterday. He is and when he said something like ‘it’s going to be a fun day’ she pulled a face which is priceless.”

Dan Walker has in fact responded to the front page himself:

Minchin joined the show as a relief presenter in 2006 and a full-time host in 2012, whereas Walker only joined in 2016.

In fact, Montague herself was in something of a similar position with her own Today co-host on Thursday morning, Mishal Husain.

Montague joined Today in 2002, giving her 15 years on the show, whereas Husain only has four years under her belt, having joined in 2013.

Despite this, Montague did not appear on yesterday’s BBC pay list, which detailed those who earned more than £150,000 last year, while Husain appeared in the £200,000-£249,999 bracket.

Husain did not, however, appear to pick up on the slight awkwardness of the situation and simply carried on with the segment.

This, combined with the disclosure of a stark gender pay gap at the corporation, led some listeners on Thursday morning to suggest the selection of Husain and Montague was the “cheap” option.

Humphrys himself told Radio 4’s Media Show he was “not happy” that his colleagues, particularly his female co-hosts, earned less than him.

He said: “I am not happy with that…I think they all do a brilliant job. But Sarah for instance is not on the list which seems to to me to be very strange indeed and... Mishal who earns a lot less than me and so do the others who earn a lot less than me and I don’t think that is right.”

He added that he had already taken a “couple of sizeable pay cuts” but said he would be prepared to consider a lower salary again.

Speaking on Newsnight on Wednesday evening, BBC director of radio James Purnell explained part of the reason why Humphrys was paid so much.

He said: “John Humphrys brings something pretty unique. He is the outstanding interviewer of his generation. He of unique value to the BBC.”

John Humphrys earns the most out of the Today programme hosts
John Humphrys earns the most out of the Today programme hosts
PA Wire/PA Images

When questioned over the difference in Sarah Montague’s pay, he said: “That’s one of the things we will continue to look at we do people’s contracts.”

The corporation was on Wednesday forced to reveal a huge gender pay gap exists among the best known and highest paid presenters after publishing for the first time a list of on-air ‘talent’ earning above £150,000 a year.

The figures show the top four male presenters across the BBC were collectively paid almost four times the total amount of the top four female presenters, with Chris Evans earning the most with a cool £2.24 million salary last year.

Also speaking on Today on Friday, Anne Mcelvoy, senior editor at the Economist, said that there were “wider implications” to the figures.

She said the list was interesting for “what it says about the culture of the organisation and other organisations...about what they think that women are suited to”.


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