Today the BBC was finally forced to publish detailed salary bands for its employees, to great controversy. While it’s not unreasonable that the corporation pays its biggest names the going rate, what’s more alarming is the gender disparity the list revealed.
It cannot be right that two thirds of its top-paid stars are men. Nor that its highest-paid presenter, Chris Evans was paid at least £2.2m – more than four times that of its highest-paid female star Claudia Winkleman.
Especially striking are the differences in pay between those in seemingly very similar roles. Gary Lineker is on a whopping £1.75m-£1.8m to fellow sports presenter Clare Balding’s £150k-£199k. DIY SOS’s Nick Knowles somehow earns £300k–£349k compared with Bake Off star Mel Giedroyc’s £150k-£199k. The One Show’s Alex Jones is on £400-450k to co-host Matt Baker’s £450-£500k (though as some have pointed out, it's worth bearing in mind that some of these figures are complicated by different working hours).
The details of these disclosures will be ruthlessly picked apart by the press today and tomorrow. And quite rightly – if we all have to pay the Licence Fee it’s not unreasonable to want to know how it’s spent. The government points out that the changes have brought the BBC ‘in line with the civil service,’ which seems appropriate.
Some are delighted to see bad headlines for the Beeb, which many regard as a holier-than-thou, politically correct, inefficient waste of cash. ITV’s Piers Morgan branded the corporation ‘sexist pigs’ on today’s Good Morning Britain. ‘The only thing we know so far is that two thirds of the highest earners at the BBC are men,’ he said. ‘Which given how right on and worthy and anti-sexism the BBC is, is a little awkward.’ MT wouldn’t mind knowing how much he earns (or indeed how that compares to co-host Susanna Reid’s pay...).
But those in the private sector should really focus on getting their own house in order. As of this week ITV can claim to have beaten the BBC in hiring its first ever female boss. But Carolyn McCall will inherit a 9-strong management team with just one woman among their ranks. Sky’s executive committee is a little more balanced but still predominantly male.
Meanwhile the BBC and its broadcaster rivals compare favourably to the business world as a whole. We can't easily compare what big companies pay men and women (for now), but we can see how few of them have lots of women employed in top jobs. As of last summer only 10% of FTSE 100 executive directors were women and only 7% of CEOs. An astonishing 80% of FTSE firms have no female exec directors at all. Things are even worse in the mid-cap FTSE 250, where just 5.6% of execs are women.
So by all means speak out about wage disparity at the BBC. But remember your own organisation is likely just as bad.