BBC broadcaster Vanessa Feltz has said she would “probably not” have signed a letter by her female colleagues demanding equal pay, arguing the issue is “more complicated” than simple discrimination.
Feltz, who earns between £350,000 (€385,265) and £399,000 (€439,170) and is the corporation’s highest-paid female radio star, said there are “all different reasons” why individual men and women would be paid unequally, condemning the “gross” exposure of her salary.
BBC presenters Vanessa Feltz (left) and Claudia Winkleman. Photo: PA
Criticising the report into BBC talent pay as “prurient and voyeuristic”, she said: “It’s nobody’s business how much I earn.”
In July, the corporation’s report showed two-thirds of its top earning celebrities are men, with just one woman, Claudia Winkleman, in the top ten.
Radio presenter Chris Evans was paid more than £2.2m (€2,421,489), Jeremy Vine more than £700,000 (€770,625) and John Humphrys more than £600,000 (€660,600).
Feltz previously found herself at the centre of a controversial column in the Sunday Times, by journalist Kevin Myers which received outcry on social media.
Under the headline “Sorry ladies, equal pay has to be earned”, Myers wrote: “I note that two of the best-paid women presenters in the BBC – Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz, with whose, no doubt, sterling work I am tragically unacquainted – are Jewish. Good for them.
“Jews are not generally noted for their insistence on selling their talent for the lowest possible price, which is the most useful measure there is of inveterate, lost-with-all-hands stupidity. I wonder, who are their agents? If they’re the same ones that negotiated the pay for the women on the lower scales, then maybe the latter have found their true value in the marketplace.”
In an interview with the Guardian, Feltz strongly objected to the publication of the BBC gender pay gap report.
The BBC itself had resisted it, calling it a “poacher’s charter”, but had been compelled to back down while negotiating its new Royal Charter.
Among the revelations was the stark gender pay gap, with stars including Jane Garvey, Sue Barker, Emily Maitlis, Sarah Montague, Mishal Husain, Kirsty Wark, Elaine Paige, Samira Ahmed, Victoria Derbyshire, Angela Rippon, Alex Jones and Fiona Bruce all adding their names to an open letter calling for equal pay throughout the organisation.
It said: “The pay details released in the Annual report showed what many of us have suspected for many years...that women at the BBC are being paid less than men for the same work.”
Feltz said she had not received an invitation to sign the letter, possibly because she does not use email.
"Look, thank God nobody asked me,” she told the Guardian. “I didn’t see the letter so I didn’t have to make any decision about signing or not.”
Asked whether she would have signed if she knew about it, she said: “Probably not.
“How do you prove two people on the same show are doing an equal job? Has one of them been around longer, has one of them been poached from somewhere else and therefore they had to be offered more money?
“There are all different reasons why people get paid different amounts.
“I don’t approve of a gender gap. Obviously I think people should be paid the same for the same, but in this instance I do think it’s a bit more complicated than that.”
On the publication of salaries overall, she argued nobody in Britain discusses how much they earn with friends or colleagues.
“I just don’t see how it’s enlightened anybody,” she said. “What were they hoping to discover as a result? Because there is no comparison. Nobody knows, for example, how much people at ITV get paid.
“It’s utterly pointless. It’s like asking what does everybody get paid at McDonald’s without asking Burger King. It would have been just as revelatory if they had said six people earn over this, 12 people over that.
“And of course it provoked an unpredictable story.
“Everybody thought it was going to be ‘We’re appalled by the astronomically high salaries’ and it turned out to be ‘We’re appalled by the inequality between the sexes.’
“I was embarrassed and I thought it was prurient and voyeuristic. It was just gross. It’s nobody’s business how much I earn.”