It is paradoxical that the last controversy over the wage gap at the BBC is carried out by two presenters of two programs whose objective is precisely to critically review the contents, editorial line and journalistic ethics of the public network.
Samira Ahmed (London, 51 years old) confronts her bosses these days in court because she is clear that being a woman has meant that she is less paid than she would be. She is a veteran journalist, with a recognized trajectory, which since 2004 presents Newswatch, a kind of defender of the spectator that every week analyzes the way in which the news presents the news. It is a delicate and arduous work, in which it is easy to fall from the wire. Samira has charged about 500 euros for each program.
Jeremy Vine (Epsom, United Kingdom, 54 years old), is also a journalist. His career, however, led many years ago towards television entertainment. It is a popular face among the British public. Until 2018 he presented Points of View (Points of View), a program that reviews the contests and series of the BBC and incorporates the opinions of the spectators. Vine has charged 3,500 euros per episode, although in 2017, when the chain made public the salaries of its stars and the inequality between men and women was evident, the presenter agreed to cut its bill to 1,500 euros.
Samira Ahmed, who has received the support of many of her colleagues by profession, says she spends many more hours than Vine to select the stories and write the scripts for her program. "Jeremy probably spends less time in the makeup room, but among other things because women are more exposed to criticism for our screen presence," he said. Claim to the chain 800,000 euros in compensatory payment. "I do not understand why the BBC believes that my work is worth a sixth of what a man does, very similar to mine. On the back of my card the values defended by the public chain are written, and among others it refers to respect and celebration of diversity, "he said in court.
The BBC argues that there are large differences between information programs and entertainment, something that is reflected both in the time slot in which they are broadcast and in their audience figures. The former, he explains, require journalists trained for their work. In the case of the latter, the profile of the presenter is more important than the contents. In order to defend his allegations, he presents a study carried out in 2017 that reflects that 71% of respondents knew who Vine was, compared with 29% who recognized Ahmed.
On average, in 2018 Newswatch It had a weekly audience of 106,000 spectators. Points of View, on the other hand, it was seen by 864,000 people. Although this second data is dismantled after verifying that Ahmed's program, which is reissued on Saturday mornings, then obtains an audience of 1.5 million. It matters, and much, the strip in which the chain decides to exhibit its product and its presenters.
The battle for the audience is the main obstacle, or the main excuse, for the BBC's self-imposed goal of reducing the wage gap to 2020 to zero. During the trial it has been possible to have a close vision of the negotiation process of the chain with Jeremy Vine. His agent threatened to take the star to the competition. ITV offered the presenter a millionaire figure. "Stop treating my client like a slave and pay him an appropriate figure. He is tired of being treated like a child," the representative wrote in 2007. He managed to add an extra clause to the contract in which the BBC promised to look for new orders for Vine that would report a plus of 115,000 euros a year, or to pay him at the end of each season what remains to match that amount.
"My battle is not against Jeremy Vine," Ahmed said. "I fight the BBC. I am extremely grateful to him, and I did not want this matter to splatter him and his name to be involved." The main union of British journalists, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has expressed its full support for the presenter. "There has been a total lack of transparency and a widespread abuse of the capacity for discretion in management that has allowed a culture that the union considers discriminatory and unfair," said Michelle Stanistreet, the UN secretary general to the court.
Last year the BBC ended up publicly apologizing to its chief correspondent in China, Carrie Grace, and compensated him with extra late payments. Grace resigned in protest over salary practices "full of secrecy and inequality." The chain acknowledged that it had compensated the journalist with a salary much lower than that of colleagues in positions of equal responsibility.
According to the figures provided by the management, the BBC has managed to reduce its salary gap at present to 6.7%, compared to 10.7% in 2017. Among its 2,700 journalists, says Tony Hall, the CEO of the entity, "the wage gap barely reaches 1% in the most widespread and common work in the chain."
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