One of the most televised networks in the UK, BBC, has recently come under fire for the staggering pay gap between men and women within the network.
The annual 2016-2017 BBC pay report documents the disparity between pay for both genders. BBC disclosed the network’s top salaries in this report. Two-thirds of the top paid employees on the report are white and male. Out of the fifteen highest-earning personalities, only three are women. Claudia Winkleman, the highest-earning woman personality, makes five times less than Chris Evans, the highest-earning male personality.
The difference in earnings is wide, and has confirmed the suspicions of many female journalists and TV personalities at BBC. Forty-two of the women drafted a letter that was sent to BBC’s Director General Tony Hall. The open letter addresses the sentiments of the women, and the lack of transparency in the network.
In the letter, the women admit that they are well paid and fortunate in comparison to others, but it is a matter for ethics and values. The women question the network’s values, saying “However, this is an age of equality and the BBC is an organisation that prides itself on values.”
The letter was a direct call to action for BBC to mediate the pay discrepancy, and accelerate the process. “We have set the most stretching targets in the industry for on-air diversity and we’ve made progress, but we recognise there is more to do and we are pushing further and faster than any other broadcaster,” said Tony Hall in response to the letter.
He pledged to provide equal pay and airtime for female members of the network, but the women aren’t waiting for those promises to magically manifest. Instead they requested “We all want to go on the record to call upon you to act now.” The women explain the revealed pay gap makes women in other departments question the discrimination they face. Notable TV personalities signed the letter, including Claire Balding, Sue Barker, and Mishal Husain.
They state BBC has known about this disparity for years, and haven’t done anything to fix it. BBC was forced to reveal the reports as it complies with U.K.’s Royal Charter, and only then were women able to see tangible numbers.
With the report proving their suspicions, women are no longer staying quiet. Previously, they would ask senior managers about the pay gap and were met with no follow-up. Female journalists were even written off as troublesome.
Mishal Husain, BBC Radio 4 presenter, grilled Hall live, on air. She asked when they would fix this problem, to which he responded with the year 2020. He said that BBC has to live “within its means.” Husain asked if men were going to be receiving pay cuts, and Hall said they were treating it “case-by-case.” There are other examples of directives towards Hall, including Claire Balding’s spiteful Twitter post that urged BBC to act now, instead of later.
As more directives are sent to BBC, the network is starting to listen to the outcry. Recently, BBC cast the first female Doctor in the hit show Doctor Who. The news was received positively as this is the first time a woman has been cast as lead in the show’s 54-year history. Even further, there will be parity between the female doctor and preceding male Doctors on the show. Jodie Whittaker, the actress cast as the female Doctor, will be paid the same as all the male Doctors.
We’re glad to see that BBC is making the necessary changes to fix the discrimination women face. But BBC still has a long way to go. And the longer they wait to fix the issue just reinforces the idea that equal pay is not a pressing matter. It makes more women feel as if they should not bring up their concerns. The workforce is rapidly changing, and it needs to accommodate the women who are bringing change to the environment. With all the traction this issue is gaining, BBC needs to act now.