I’ve been asked to write another article for the University of Huddersfield View from the North blog, this time about the gender pay row at the BBC and Carrie Gracie’s appearance before MPs yesterday. And here it is.
THE BBC is in a bind over how much it pays its journalists.
In particular, Auntie’s accused of giving prominent female reporters a raw deal, by keeping them on salaries far lower than men doing similar jobs.
The issue – rumbling for months – exploded to prominence at the start of the year when China Editor, Carrie Gracie, announced she would leave that role in protest at discovering she was paid significantly less than, for example, US Editor Jon Sopel.
Gracie’s intervention demonstrates the BBC was in the wrong twice over.
First, she underlined the uncomfortable reality that the BBC was indeed short changing its female journalistic talent.
Radio 5 live Breakfast presenter Rachel Burden revealed last summer she was paid a third of the salary of her co-host, Nicky Campbell. Sure, he has a long history as a Radio 1 DJ and TV star and his pay is certainly a legacy of that, while Burden’s relatively modest wage reflects her more conventional background in BBC local radio.
Campbell is a hugely experienced and capable presenter, but is he three times better than Burden? Of course not, and he’s acknowledged as much by joining Sopel in agreeing a pay cut.
Second, the idea that BBC journalists need to be paid more to prevent them being poached by rival organisations is nonsense.
This does happen from time to time – see Robert Peston’s switch to ITV – but if commercial broadcasters really are prepared to pay top dollar to get leading BBC names, then what’s the problem?
It’s an organisation full of journalists like Rachel Burden, ready to take the step up from local radio or regional TV, who have lacked only the chance to prove their abilities on a national stage.
BBC News is already trying to find savings of £80m a year as part of BBC-wide cost cutting. I’d expect to see far fewer big salaries and more internal promotions from here on in.”