As an act of sisterly solidarity, I’m trying hard to sympathise with the BBC women who are paid visibly less than their colleagues. Poor Claudia Winkleman “only” gets half a million quid annually: Alex Jones, of The One Show, a mere £400,000, and Fiona Bruce a paltry £350,000. Emily Maitlis of Newsnight is on a desperate £150,000 – while her co-presenter, Evan Davis (who also does radio), has £250,000 in his pay packet.
Now, we know the complaint is that the “gender pay gap” at the BBC is a scandal. (Chris Evans is paid more than £2.2 million and Gary Lineker £1.75 million.) And in the name of equality, they’ll have to sort this out.
But the wider problem is, surely, that we live in a world of glaring inequality, and that this is amplified in all professions which involve either performance, media or showbiz. People at the top earn in telephone numbers, whereas diligent folk lower down the scales are paid, by comparison, quite meagrely. Hundreds of BBC employees earn just £20,000 – one per cent of Chris Evans’s salary.
Also, the BBC sometimes pays nothing at all to programme contributors, saying that “there is no budget for a fee”. It is not just a gender pay issue.
The women are entitled to complain, but is the BBC entitled to continue with this blatantly unequal system, based more on a Hollywood model of tough agents negotiating for their clients than on Sir John Reith’s concept of public service broadcasting?
In an age which shouts loudly about “equality”, there is a lot of dire inequality going around. And I’m not sure that any of the big cheeses at the BBC, male or female, quite understands that to most of us, a “lowly” £150,000 is a huge sum of money.
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