Women working at the BBC are still earning “far less” than their male colleagues, leaving the broadcaster fighting a “crisis of trust”, MPs have discovered.
According to a report published by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee, the BBC has “failed to lived up to” its legal duty to provide equal opportunities for women, with staff alleging that managers “deliberately misled” them over salaries.
One female broadcaster told MPs: “I found out that the existing male presenter was being paid 50% more than me per programme.
“When I asked for the pay gap to be corrected, the line manager told me ‘the BBC doesn’t do equal pay’ and that in raising the issue, I was being ‘aggressive’.”
Meanwhile, the committee condemned the broadcaster’s new ‘Career Path Framework’ – brought in to offer transparency on pay – as a failure, saying that it was “no use” to female workers looking to compare their salaries to male colleagues.
While they are able to see which pay band they sit in, they still cannot see how many men also belong to the same bracket, the report said.
“The BBC acts as a beacon in public life,” said DCMS committee chair Damian Collins. “As an employer it has an even higher level of duty than others to advance equality of opportunity – but has failed to do.
“The BBC must take urgent action now if it’s to restore its reputation on equal pay and win back the trust of staff.”
It was revealed this summer that all of the BBC’s top 10 on-air earners are men, with its highest paid female star – Claudia Winkleman – ranked 13th.
As part of its recommendations, the committee not only called on the BBC to take “urgent action” to address the “shocking” gender imbalance ahead of next year’s report on top earners, but said the broadcaster should also publish the salaries of its highest paid presenters on programmes made by independent production companies.
In addition to this, the BBC should commit to resolving all existing grievance cases about equal pay within the next six months, MPs said.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the BBC branded “much” of the report as “already out of date”.
“Recent disclosures by other media organisations show that the BBC’s gender pay gap is amongst the smallest and well below the national average,” they said. “But we do hold ourselves to a higher standard.
“That is why our action on pay has seen the BBC make real progress in addressing equal pay cases; carry out an independent audit of equal pay overseen by a former Court of Appeal judge; introduce independent oversight so that disputes can be resolved; take clear steps to rebalance top talent pay; reform our pay structure to ensure fairness and give an unprecedented level of transparency and information about pay ranges for all staff; and, set up independent reviews to see what further steps should be taken on pay transparency.”
The BBC wants to offer a “great place to work”, where people are “properly rewarded for their expertise and experience”, they added.
The row over unequal wages at the BBC emerged after its 2017 report on pay – which was called for by government – revealed a dearth of women amongst its highest earners, with just one female presenter among the top 10.
In January, BBC journalist Carrie Gracie resigned from her post as China editor after she allegedly discovered she was being paid “at least 50% less” than male international editors.