Carrie Gracie: BBC can't be trusted to report honestly over gender pay gap

Former China editor delivers impassioned speech to MPs

Harriet Agerholm
Wednesday 31 January 2018 16:21
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Journalist Carrie Gracie speaks about pay inequality at BBC

The BBC’s journalism cannot be trusted unless it is truthful about its gender pay gap, the corporation’s former China editor Carrie Gracie has said.

Ms Gracie resigned from her post earlier this month over what she claimed was a “secretive and illegal pay culture” at the BBC that discriminated against women.

The corporation was forced to reveal the salaries of its highest-earning talent last year, exposing a 9 per cent gender pay gap, although an independent pay audit of staff at the organisation found no “systemic discrimination against women”.

The BBC’s former China editor on Wednesday delivered impassioned evidence on the issue of pay disparity to the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

“We’re not in the business of producing toothpaste or tyres at the BBC — our business is truth,” she said.

“We can’t operate without the truth. If we’re not prepared to look at ourselves honestly, how can we be trusted to look at anything else in our reporting honestly?”

BBC bosses told her she was paid less than her male counterparts because she was “in development”, the journalist said.

“It is an insult to add to the original injury. It is unacceptable to talk to your senior women like that,” she said.

Ms Gracie was already experienced at reporting on Chinese affairs, was fluent in Mandarin and had a Chinese degree she was appointed BBC News' first editor for China in 2013.

“I knew I would do that job at least as well as other man,” she said

“And there was no man. Frankly there was no other candidate for the job at the time.”

Since filing her grievance complaint, the BBC has offered to pay her around £100,000 in back pay, saying it had “inadvertently” underpaid her since 2014.

But she said: “I don’t want that money — that’s not what its about for me.

“They’re still not giving me equality, they’re still not giving me parity.

“If they showed me robust data and robust benchmarks on why they want to pay the men more than me ... that would be ok, but they have’t given me that, even now. An apology would be nice."

Ms Gracie appeared close to tears at a number of points during the evidence session, including when talking about the stress caused by the BBC’s complaints process.

She said she faced delays and obfuscation and her work was “belittled” .

“That is what has to happen if they are not going to concede, they are going to have to crush your self-esteem about your work, so that is very painful. I found all of that really hard,” she said.

“I feel very angry about what [BBC managers] have put some other people through, I feel angry about some of the things I’ve seen and heard [from] some of the women and the suffering they have gone through.

“It’s not funny. All of these women have been underpaid, for years, some decades.”

She earlier spoke of what she said was a “toxic work atmosphere” and warned BBC management saying: “It is going to get worse, we have women leaving, the credibility of management is diminished and damaged and they will lose in employment tribunals.

“They are stumbling towards a Greek tragedy where they make happen their own worst fears. They need to stop now, pull up and trust their staff.”

As Ms Gracie spoke, former Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman tweeted: ”Heartfelt, compelling words from BBCCarrie at CommonsCMS select committee. Thank you Carrie for speaking so clearly about pay injustice. Will spur change not just BBC but for all women at work.”

The BBC’s director General Lord Hall said: “I take great heart that 298 (people) have come forward, mostly women but not entirely women. We've resolved 117 of those and they are mainly women's cases we've resolved.”

When challenged on a comment that the system is “working”, Lord Hall added: “I am not saying all is well, what I am saying is that what we have been doing is managing cases and telling people to come forward. Roughly 1 per cent of the population of the BBC are pursuing those cases and we're dealing with them.”

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