Jeremy Corbyn backs BBC women presenters in gender pay gap dispute

40 women have written an open letter to the BBC leadership to call for reforms

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Sunday 23 July 2017 11:24 BST
Jeremy Corbyn backs BBC women presenters in gender pay gap dispute

Jeremy Corbyn has backed a group of female BBC presenters who are in open revolt over an apparent pay gap between themselves and their male counterparts doing the same job.

The Labour leader said that the BBC needed to “look very hard at itself”, and that the treatment of older women, in particular, by the Corporation was a serious issue.

Household names, including presenters Clare Balding, Victoria Derbyshire and Angela Rippon, are among more than 40 women to have signed a frank and open letter to director-general Tony Hall, urging him to “correct this disparity” over gender pay.

The Labour leader said that his party’s policies of introducing a maximum pay ratio in public sector organisations, as well as equal pay audits across all companies, would address the issue.

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, Mr Corbyn said: “I would sign the letter with them. I think the BBC needs to look very hard at itself. The point you made in the press discussion earlier about the treatment of older women in the BBC is a very good one.

“But also, this gender pay gap is appalling – we would insist on a strong gender pay audit of every organisation and we’d also look at a 20:1 between the chief executive and the lowest paid staff in every organisation, and the BBC is very much public sector.”

He added that such gap gaps were not just confined to the BBC.

“What about those working in the NHS, those working in local government, in small companies where the women know they’re being paid less than a man doing more or less the same job?” the MP added.

Mr Corbyn’s intervention and the letter sent by the senior BBC staff members comes after the broadcaster was forced to reveal how much it pays its top talent – which is £150,000. The figures show some male stars earning significantly more than their female counterparts.

The letter sent by the 40 presenters includes signatures from Wimbledon presenter Sue Barker, Today programme journalists Mishal Husain and Sarah Montague and BBC Breakfast regular Sally Nugent. Correspondents including Katya Adler and Lyse Doucet have also backed the move to end discrimination against women.

The letter says: “Compared to many women and men, we are very well compensated and fortunate. However, this is an age of equality and the BBC is an organisation that prides itself on its values.”

It continues that “...there are so many other areas including production, engineering and support services and global, regional and local media where a pay gap has languished for too long,” and adds: “This is an opportunity for those of us with strong and loud voices to use them on behalf of all, and for an organisation that had to be pushed into transparency to do the right thing.”

A BBC spokesman said: “We have made significant changes over the last three years but need to do more. Mr Hall has pledged the BBC will go further, faster.

“Across the BBC, the average pay of men is 10 per cent higher than that of women. The national average is 18 per cent.

“We are committing to closing it by 2020 – something no other organisation has committed to doing.

“The BBC’s workforce has been hired over generations and this is complex and cannot be done overnight.

“We are, however, confident that when these figures are published again next year, they will show significant progress towards that goal.

“Mr Hall meets staff all the time and will, of course, meet individuals to hear their thoughts as we work to accelerate change.”

Additional reporting by PA

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