BBC Proposes New Pay Framework, Says ‘No Evidence of Gender Bias’ but Issues to Address

BBC Broadcasting House
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A study of pay at the BBC has found “no evidence of gender bias” in determining employee salaries but says that disparities in the pay of men and women at the organization should be addressed. In response, the BBC has proposed a new framework for setting the salaries of on-air presenters, correspondents and talent, and proposed the introduction of a £320,000 ($449,000) salary cap for its news readers.

The study was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers at the behest of the BBC, and looked at correspondents, presenters and on-air editors in news and news-related areas. The report, published by the BBC on Tuesday, said that although there appeared to be no active bias against women in determining their salaries, opaque decision-making and unclear compensation frameworks had resulted in “anomalies that need addressing.” It said there was a 6.8% pay gap between men and women in this group earning over £150,000.

The U.K. pubcaster has faced a barrage of criticism since publishing the salaries of its top-earning on-air talent last June, a move it had resisted and which revealed wide-ranging disparities between male and female talent. BBC Director General Tony Hall said Tuesday he was determined to make the organization’s compensation system fairer.

“The BBC believes in equality. No one should be paid differently because of their gender. The BBC has a special role representing Britain. That is why we need to be and want to be an exemplar on gender pay, and equal pay,” Hall said.

“Today’s report does not find evidence of gender bias in decision-making, but it shows that we have real and important issues to tackle, particularly in some areas of news and current affairs, and I’m determined to get it right. The plans we’re setting out today go further and are more important steps in modernizing the BBC and making it fairer.”

The PwC report said that too many pay decisions are made locally because of the absence of clear pay frameworks. There is also a lack of clarity over pay decisions, and there has been a slower rate of pay progression, for both men and women, over the past decade because of a period of significant pay restraint.

The BBC’s proposed new salary structure would mean “substantial pay cuts for some men and increases for some male and female presenters,” with some high-paid men having already accepted salary reductions. Specific plans include narrower pay bands, fewer contracts and allowances, and greater transparency. “When our reforms are complete, everyone will be able to see the pay range for virtually every job in the BBC,” it said, adding that it will explain the pay of every presenter earning more £150,000, especially where they do more than one role.

The move to ensure 50-50 gender representation on screen and radio will also be accelerated, with changes to the on-air lineup introduced at a faster rate.

Ahead of Tuesday’s report, a group of 170 women working at the BBC submitted evidence to a parliamentary  committee looking into issues of pay and equality. The group provided evidence of alleged gender-based pay disparities and problems with reporting them, and called for an apology as well as back pay to address the pay gap.

The BBC said that it has addressed almost half of the 230 cases raised of pay unfairness and equality by women and men – on and off air. “We aim to conclude the rest by the summer,” it added.

Unions and law firms are leading separate claims on behalf of BBC employees who have grievances over pay. Former BBC China editor Carrie Gracie, who left that post for another at the BBC amid a dispute over her salary in relation to her male counterparts, is one of those taking action against the pubcaster.

Hall will appear before the parliamentary committee Wednesday. Its chairman, Damien Collins, told BBC Radio on Tuesday that the pay problem was extensive. “It is a large group of women at the BBC who feel the BBC does not have an effective policy on equal pay” or an effective grievance process, Collins said. “People have found it very difficult to seek redress.”

Collins added that the BBC’s proposals should extend beyond the best-paid news presenters to all levels, and that there is also a concern around pay for talent.

The BBC will now consult staff and unions and seek feedback on PwC’s proposals before developing a final set of proposals with legal experts.