Wednesday 13 November 2019

Martina Navratilova hits out at the BBC over pay

The list of the BBC’s top-paid talent revealed that John McEnroe was paid at least £150,000.

Martina Navratilova (Yui Mok/PA)
Martina Navratilova (Yui Mok/PA)

By Sherna Noah, Press Association Senior Entertainment Correspondent

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova has hit out at the BBC after discovering that fellow Wimbledon pundit John McEnroe is paid at least 10 times more than her.

McEnroe’s pay packet, of £150,000 to £199,999, was revealed in a list of the BBC’s top-paid talent last summer.

Navratilova, 61, told Panorama that she is paid around £15,000 by the BBC for her commentator role at Wimbledon.

“It was a shock because John McEnroe makes at least £150,000…  I get about £15,000 for Wimbledon and unless John McEnroe’s doing a whole bunch of stuff outside of Wimbledon he’s getting at least 10 times as much money”, she said.

Former Tennis player John McEnroe (Steve Paston/PA)

Navratilova said that she was told she was getting paid a comparable amount to men doing the same job as her, adding: “We were not told the truth, that’s for sure….

“(I’m) not happy… It’s shocking… It’s still the good old boys network…. The bottom line is that male voices are valued more than women’s voices.”

Navratilova, who was crowned Wimbledon ladies’ champion nine times, said that her agent will ask for more money in future.

BBC Sport told Panorama that “John and Martina perform different roles in the team, and John’s role is of a different scale, scope and time commitment,” adding: “They are simply not comparable. John’s pay reflects all of this, gender isn’t a factor.”

Panorama said it estimated that McEnroe, 59,  who was crowned Wimbledon champion three times, appeared around 30 times for the BBC at Wimbledon last year, compared to Navratilova’s 10 appearances.

Carrie Gracie giving evidence to MPs (PA)

Meanwhile, former China editor Carrie Gracie, who resigned from her role in protest at inequalities and now works for the BBC in London, said she could leave the corporation.

“I haven’t made a sacrifice…  I may still have to leave the BBC,” she said.

And former BBC news presenter Maxine Mawhinney said she is considering bringing a case against the broadcaster over pay.

She had just left the BBC after 20 years when the pay list was published last summer.

She told Panorama: “I do know that I have sat beside men on TV doing the same job, probably (with) the same experience or I might have been even more experienced, and I know they were earning more than me.”

Asked if she would take a case against the BBC over equal pay, she said: “If I find that I was entitled to have been paid at a different rate during the time I was there of course I would.”

Maxine Mawhinney (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Fran Unsworth, the BBC’s director of news and current affairs, told Panorama: “We don’t think we have acted illegally in regard to equal pay.

“That doesn’t mean, however, there won’t be instances and cases where there is inequality and we need to address those.”

The gender pay gap has been in the headlines since the salaries of top BBC talent were revealed.

Radio 2’s Chris Evans topped the list on more than £2 million, while the highest paid woman was Claudia Winkleman on between £450,000 and £499,999.

Chris Evans (Nick Ansell/PA)

A review commissioned by the BBC found a 6.8% gender pay gap – but “no evidence of gender bias in pay decision-making”.

Its conclusions were criticised by BBC Women, a group that includes presenters such as Jane Garvey, Mishal Husain and Victoria Derbyshire.

Conservative MP Damian Collins told Panorama that talent salaries paid through BBC Studios – the BBC’s commercial arm which operates under different rules – should not be kept under wraps.

“I think the way to resolve it is to make those salaries public – be they being paid directly by the BBC or through a production company.

Fran Unsworth (Jeff Overs/BBC)

“If the BBC refuse to do that and they can…  because the charter doesn’t require them, I think we should ask the National Audit Office to go in and to audit this and to report back to Parliament,” he said.

Unsworth rejected the idea saying: “The BBC is in a big fight here for the best ideas, the best talent.  If we’re going to really make it difficult for the independents to come and work for the BBC, by subjecting all the people who work on it to the same level of scrutiny that our existing stars are, then I don’t think that we’re going to be producing the best programmes.”

It recently emerged Claire Foy earned less than Matt Smith for Netflix drama The Crown, despite Foy starring as the Queen.

A BBC spokeswoman said McEnroe, along with Sue Barker, “is regarded as the face of our Wimbledon coverage” and “widely considered to be the best expert/commentator in the sport”.

The broadcaster said in a statement: “We’re incredibly proud of the whole team who present our Wimbledon coverage.

“John and Martina perform different roles in the team, and John’s role is of a different scale, scope and time commitment. They are simply not comparable.

“Martina is one of a number of occasional contributors who is contracted to carry out a fixed volume of work and paid per appearance. The BBC believes her pay reflects what she is asked to do, her time commitment, her level of broadcast experience, profile and track record and expertise. At Wimbledon 2017 her work amounted to three live match commentaries, four highlights appearances, one short video and two other short studio appearances. Beyond this she has no contractual commitment to the BBC.

“Our contract with John is entirely different. John is contracted to be on call for the BBC across the entire 13 days of the tournament, subject to a commitment with one US broadcaster, and is on air every day. He worked on live match commentaries on 12 of the 13 days along with highlights programmes, opening links, regular studio pieces with Sue Barker, studio analysis, filmed sequences and 6-0-6 programmes for BBC Radio 5 live, as well as publicity work.

“Along with Sue Barker, John is regarded as the face of our Wimbledon coverage. He is a defining voice within the BBC’s coverage. He is widely considered to be the best expert/commentator in the sport, highly valued by our audiences and his contract means he cannot work for another UK broadcaster without our permission. His pay reflects all of this – gender isn’t a factor.”

Panorama: Britain’s Equal Pay Scandal, airs today at 7.30pm on BBC1.

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