The BBC pays its female employees “far less” than their male counterparts and is failing to advance equal opportunities for women, according to a new report by a British government committee that scrutinized the pubcaster’s accounts and equal pay efforts.
The BBC has been criticized for its gender pay gap, with salary figures for its top on-air talent revealing glaring disparities between the sexes. A high-profile dispute with one of its top journalists, Carrie Gracie, who was paid less than a male colleague in a similar role, also led to a storm of criticism of the broadcaster.
A PwC study commissioned by the BBC and greeted with skepticism by many found “no evidence of gender bias” when it came to pay decisions. But the Beeb did propose new measures for determining salary levels and settled with Gracie. It also commissioned a report into how it could “sweep away any barriers to women progressing.”
On that front it has largely failed, according to a report issued Wednesday by the British Parliament’s media and culture committee. The report slams the BBC for “invidious, opaque decision-making” on pay and “failing to live up to its duty under the Equality Act to advance equal opportunity for women.” It adds that measures to tackle the problem are not working, saying that “new pay reforms have serious shortcomings.”
“The BBC acts as a beacon in public life,” said committee chair Damian Collins, a member of Parliament from the ruling Conservative Party. “The BBC must take urgent action now if it’s to restore its reputation on equal pay and win back the trust of staff.”
The gender pay gap recorded last year by the BBC was below that of rival broadcasters Channel 4, ITV, and Sky. The BBC has also said that the gap is closing in its talent ranks and has committed to a 50-50 male-female split in the proportion of top earners by the end of 2020. But Collins appeared to suggest that the BBC should be held to higher standards than others, noting “it has an even higher level of duty than others to advance equality of opportunity – but this it has failed to do.”
The parliamentary committee’s look at BBC pay followed Gracie’s allegations of discrimination against women. The committee said lawmakers taking part in the investigation heard that pay decisions were personality-led and that there was a lack of central oversight.
The BBC’s reforms included showing where staff members sit on a pay-scale, but not a gender breakdown within that. The committee said urgent action is necessary before the next BBC Annual Report. It also wants the BBC to publish the salaries of its top-earning presenters, even if they are on shows produced for the pubcaster by an outside production company.