Carrie Gracie says she refused BBC's £45,000 pay rise and resigned to avoid 'colluding in unlawful discrimination'

Ex-BBC China editor says that after exposing goings-on abroad, she could not shy away from shining a light on the gender pay gap at the BBC

Adam Lusher
Monday 08 January 2018 18:29
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Carrie Gracie on quitting the BBC over equal pay: There is a 'hunger for an equal, fair and transparent pay system'

BBC Journalist Carrie Gracie said she turned down a £45,000 pay rise and resigned because she refused “to collude knowingly in what I consider to be unlawful discrimination” at the corporation.

After her highly publicised resignation, the ex-BBC China editor said she had been determined not to help the corporation "perpetuate a failing pay structure by discriminating against women".

She told BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour: "I could not go back to China and collude knowingly in what I consider to be unlawful pay discrimination. I could not do it, nor could I stay silent and watch the BBC perpetuate a failing pay structure by discriminating against women."

Ms Gracie said that after the gender pay gap between the salaries of male and female stars was revealed in July, she told BBC managers that she didn’t want more money, just equality with her male counterparts.

She said: "My pay is £135,000. The BBC offered to raise that to £180,000; however, I was not interested in more money. I was interested in equality and I kept saying to my managers that I didn't need more money, I just needed to be made equal and that can be done in a variety of ways."

Gracie, who was interviewed by freelance journalist Jane Martinson due to broadcasting impartiality rules preventing show host Jane Garvey from doing so, said she became frustrated by the pay rise offer made last October.

She said: "I didn't feel that it was a solution, I felt it was a divide-and-rule, botched solution that would not make the BBC better. And I do love the BBC."

In a letter published earlier, addressed to the BBC Audience, she explained that she would be returning to her former post in the TV newsroom "where I expect to be paid equally".

On the issue of whether pay should be slashed, she told Martinson: "I believe in public service broadcasting, and I do think, as you will have seen from my letter, I do think salaries at the top are unacceptably high, both for presenters and stars of various kinds, and also for managers actually."

But she said did not have the information to enable her to say what needs to be done, criticising the BBC for being "a secretive organisation" on pay, which she added makes it difficult for women to know whether the corporation is applying the law in individual instances.

Clare Balding, Emily Maitlis and Sarah Montague were among a string of prominent colleagues to voice their support for Gracie, who said the corporation was facing "a crisis of trust" by not paying its male and female workers equally.

Ms Gracie told Woman’s Hour: “I didn’t want more money. I wanted equality, and there was still a big gap between myself and my male peers.”

She didn’t name those male peers, but they were presumably her international editor counterparts, Jon Sopel the US editor who was revealed in July to earn £200,000-£249,999 a year, and Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, £150,000-£199,999.

Explaining the reasoning behind resigning from her BBC China editor job, Ms Gracie said: "Every day I go out without fear or favour, facing intimidation in China, facing censorship, actually telling the story and shining a light.

“I am not going to not shine a light when I find a problem in my home organisation.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has said it will write to the BBC over Ms Gracie’s claims.

The watchdog said it will request all relevant information from the corporation and then decide whether further action is required.

“Women have a legal right to equal pay with men for equal work”, said a spokesman for commission. “All employers have a duty to do more to end discrimination and ensure they fully comply with equality law.”

On Monday the BBC defended itself against Ms Gracie’s criticisms by issuing a statement in which the corporation said: “Fairness in pay is vital. A significant number of organisations have now published their gender pay figures showing that we are performing considerably better than many.”

In October, a judge-led audit of rank-and-file BBC staff pay found “no systemic discrimination against women”.

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