Friday 15 November 2019

BBC stars call for ‘transparency’ and ‘speed’ over gender pay gap

Lord Hall met several leading female broadcasters and is ‘determined’ to tackle the issue.

Kirsty Wark (Anthony Devlin/PA)
Kirsty Wark (Anthony Devlin/PA)

By Sherna Noah, Press Association Senior Entertainment Correspondent

BBC stars such as Kirsty Wark, Jane Garvey, Louise Minchin and Mishal Husain have called for urgent “solutions” over the gender pay gap after Director-General Tony Hall announced an audit of equal pay.

Lord Hall said the broadcaster was “determined” to tackle the issue,  and that the “causes tend to be structural – and societal”.

His speech comes two days after he sat down, together with deputy director general Anne Bulford, for a lunch with leading female broadcasters Fiona Bruce, Clare Balding, Mishal Husain, Sarah Montague, Garvey and Wark to discuss the issue.

Louise Minchin

A source told the Press Association the conversation was “robust” and “extraordinarily frank”, with Lord Hall “taking the criticism”.

“At one point some of us began to feel sorry for him”, the source said, adding: “At least the BBC is beginning to confront this issue, which should be of concern to every major employer in the country.

“The reports the BBC have commissioned have to be easily understood by everyone impacted by them. How independent they are, we will have to see.

“The intentions are good. But speed is absolutely essential.”

Fiona Bruce interview

The source added: “It’s great that the BBC says it wants to be an exemplar on equal pay, but why isn’t it already?”

And the source also added of the lunch with Lord Hall: “In fact, we feel a degree of sympathy for him.

“He’s wound up having to tackle something that should have been dealt with decades ago.”

In an address to staff, Lord Hall said its gender pay gap was “primarily about the different balance of men and women at different levels”.

“It’s based on the whole picture across the organisation – and the causes tend to be structural – and societal,” he said.

The BBC Women group said that “solutions” should be in place before the end of the year.

“The Director General must be in no doubt about how serious an issue equal and fair pay is for women across the organisation,” they said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Kirsty Wark

“The BBC should be the standard bearer for this.

“We await the swift release of meaningful data that we can trust and for solutions that will rectify injustices to be put in place before the end of the year.

“We need full transparency. Our aim is to change things for women in broadcasting now, and to encourage and reassure young women coming into the industry whatever their role.

Jane Garvey

“We will be monitoring developments to ensure real change happens, and quickly.”

Woman’s Hour host Garvey, who organised a letter from some of the BBC’s most prominent female stars calling on the Corporation to “act now” on pay, wrote on Twitter: “If I’ve learnt anything: women need to get together, stick together, speak up for each other. Or nothing will change.”

She added: “We’re going nowhere.”

Broadcaster Wark, BBC Breakfast host Minchin, Today host Husain and sports presenter Balding all posted the statement online.

Balding wrote: “Interesting announcements today. Much work to be done. Thanks to all (including some men) supporting BBC Women.”

Broadcasters Victoria Derbyshire, Andrea Catherwood and Montague also tweeted the statement.

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