Female reporters paid £6,500 less than men by BBC

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The Independent Online

Female correspondents working on the BBC's flagship television news bulletins earn £6,500 less than their male counterparts on average, according to figures released under the corporation's freedom of information scheme.

The disclosure will support claims of the existence of a glass ceiling for women journalists at the BBC, and will raise questions about the fairness of the corporation's overall pay structure.

Separate figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that in the past five years the number of staff earning more than £100,000 has risen threefold, while the number of employees has fallen in the face of a wide redundancy programme.

Earlier this year the BBC was criticised for the lavish pay packets given to its big names such as Jonathan Ross during a period of significant cost-cutting.

But, according to an answer to the Freedom of Information Act question, the average female news correspondent working for the One, Six and Ten o'clock news broadcasts is paid £59,050 - compared to £65,625 for a male correspondent.

David Ayrton, research and information officer at the National Union of Journalists, said: "Whilst the NUJ and other media trade unions have made significant inroads in eroding the glass ceiling... more measures are needed to eradicate pay inequality."

In answering the question, the BBC said: "To help put the information in context, it is worth noting that the relative experience of specialist correspondents is likely to be reflected in their salaries. Therefore, we have also included the average ages of and lengths of service for the sample group, as they may be an indicator of relative levels of experience."

The average age of a female correspondent is 41, while it is 46 for males.

A second document released under the FoI legislation reveals that while 107 BBC staff were paid more than £100,000 in 2001, that number had risen to 322 by September 2006. Yet, in the same period, the number of staff had fallen to 21,538, from 21,683 five years ago.

ONS statistics released in October showed the pay gap in Britain between men and women's salaries remains at 17.2 per cent.

The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has used these figures to estimate that the average woman working full-time will lose out on around £330,000 over the course of her working life. The EOC is now calling on the Government to use this review as an opportunity to modernise the law so that it can be more effective in helping to close the pay gap.

Jenny Watson, the chairman of the EOC, said: "The pay gap, sadly, isn't closing fast enough. We welcome the action plan following the Women and Work Commission. But we also need new legal thinking if we're to tackle this stubborn inequality and speed up the pace of change." She added: "In the generation since the sex discrimination acts and the equal pay acts came into force, women have made great strides. But the remaining pay gap suggests that our three-decades-old laws - which rely heavily on women bringing costly individual legal cases to challenge inequality - have reached the limits of their usefulness.

"We need a new generation of laws placing a more active responsibility on employers to deliver equality for tomorrow's generation - before they too miss out on much-needed income."

What the top dogs make...

In July it was reported that BBC executives received record rises in an overall £3.7m pay deal. Mark Thompson, the director general, was awarded a £60,000 pay increase, and the nine other board members were also given hefty rises, the corporation's annual report shows.

The size of the rises, which were approved by the BBC governors, infuriated staff who have spent the past year dealing with around 3,000 job cuts. Mr Thompson's 11 per cent rise took his salary and perks to £619,000, up from £459,000 in 2004. (If he had been employed for the full 12 months of 2004, his salary would have been £562,000.)

Jana Bennett, director of television, was paid £353,000, including benefits and bonus. Her basic pay rose from £255,000 to £321,000.

The basic pay of Jenny Abramsky, the director of radio and music, rose from £233,000 to £295,000.

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