23rd July 2017
BBC – still work to do on pay at Broadcasting House
The BBC has been making all the headlines this week, with the news that the overpaid men who work for the corporation, have been massively more overpaid than the overpaid women the BBC employs. This is a form of inequality. That highest paid male presenter, Chris Evans, should get £2.2m per annum and highest paid female, Claudia Winkleman, a mere £450,000 is clearly an injustice.
A little more digging by the media, they are real news hounds after all, reveals that it is not only men but white men who fill the top pay bracket, with ethnic minority presenters, of either gender, barely making the BBC rich list. It will not be much longer before they discover an overabundance of Oxbridge graduates and a paucity of employees from working class backgrounds in the higher echelons of the BBC. Who would have thought it!
The demand signed by 40 of the BBC’s ‘underpaid’ female presenters, that the BBC address the gender pay gap now, not by 2020 as planned, has been gaining traction. No doubt the BBC bosses will feel under pressure to redress the imbalance and renegotiate contracts sooner rather than later.
Putting a value on ‘talent’ is always fraught with difficulty, so much is subjective, but few would consider Chris Evans to be five times better at what he does than Claudia Winkleman, or ten times more valuable to the corporation than the many who made the list but still came in at under £200,000 per annum. The real question is, why does anyone think that any of these people are worth this amount of money?
The argument tends to go that the BBC has to compete in a particular market place and to attract top talent needs to pay the going rate, or its commercial competitors will poach their stars.
Unless the rules have changed however it remains the case that the BBC is a public sector corporation and, by definition, its staff are public sector employees. Quite how the 1% public sector pay cap has affected the BBC rich list is not clear, although 1% of Chris Evans’ salary probably beats the annual pay of whoever cleans his office.
In fact it has fallen to media and entertainment union BECTU to point out that there are 400 BBC UK employees who earn under £20,000 per annum, some being on less that £16,000 according to BECTU general secretary, Gerry Morrissey, who stated,
“We are talking about people who help to make content who are in the same department that is commissioning the talent. The BBC is getting £4bn of licence fee payers’ money and it should at least commit to a liveable wage. We think £20,000 is not extortionate.”
The claim for a £20K minimum salary, first tabled in 2016, remains on the table as talks with the recognised unions – BECTU, the NUJ and Unite – continue on the pay review for 2017/18 alongside an overhaul of BBC terms and conditions.
The flagrant waste of licence payers’ money on inflated salaries is even more scandalous when set against the fact that top earners at the BBC are also drawing massive salaries from external private sector production companies. So Television, which makes the Graham Norton Show for the BBC, paid its star £2.6m last year to top up the mere £850,000 which Norton received from the BBC. Many BBC earners will also top up their salary with appearance fees throughout the year, of between £5,000 – £10,000 a time.
The BBC does not exist in the marketplace in the same way as its private sector competitors. It is the state broadcaster, its terms of operation are set by Parliament, it does not have to attract advertising revenue to survive. Some of the BBC top executives, those making decisions behind the scenes, are on salaries in excess of £300,000 per annum. They should be capable of managing the £4bn gifted to them by licence payers each year more efficiently. Managers elsewhere in the public sector have been delivering savings and efficiencies for a decade under the national austerity agenda.
If local communities are being forced to live without essential services such as libraries, swimming pools and other community facilities, if the fire and rescue service and the NHS are suffering cutbacks, then surely the BBC could cope without Chris Evans? At the very least, the BBC could bring its highest earners into line with the pay enjoyed by Claudia Winkleman. That would make a start on the gender pay gap at the top. As BECTU have insisted though, the BBC’s commitment to fixing the pay gap needs to reach beyond the top tiers to the rest of the organisation.