For the first time ever, the BBC has revealed the salaries of its highest-paid stars – including TV hosts, news reporters, sports presenters, and radio personalities – and the data exposes a massive disparity in pay between the top male and female talent.
The published salaries cover all those earning £150,000 or more a year, as paid for by the licence fee, but does not include any earnings the stars may accumulate from other broadcasters or commercial activities.
The figures show that the corporation’s highest-paid man, Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans, earns £1.5 million more than the highest-paid woman, “Strictly Come Dancing” co-host Claudia Winkleman. In fact, over two-thirds of the top earners are male, with female employees earning four times less than their male colleagues.
Evans, who has hosted Radio 2’s Breakfast Show since 2010, took home between £2.2 million and £2.49 million last year, while Winkleman, who has co-presented the BBC’s popular Saturday evening dance competition since 2010, earned between £450,000 and £499,999.
Sports presenter Gary Lineker follows Evans as the second-highest earner, receiving between £1.75 million and £1.79 million last year. The seven top-paid stars are all male, including talk show host Graham Norton (£850,000 – £899,999), radio and TV presenter Jeremy Vine (£700,000 – £749,999), and news anchor Huw Edwards (£550,000 – £599,999).
In comparison, the top female earners made significantly less. “The One Show” co-host Alex Jones received between £400,000 and £449,000, Winkleman’s “Strictly” co-presenter Tess Daly earned £350,000 and £399,999, while Fiona Bruce, Huw Edwards’ news anchor counterpart, also took home £350,000 to £399,999.
Just nine women on the published list earned over £250,000 last year, while 25 men received that amount or more.
BBC Director General Lord Tony Hall was asked whether he was ashamed of the gender pay gap in a press conference on Wednesday. “I’d say I am reinvigorated in achieving equality by 2020 between men and women,” he answered (as reported by The Huffington Post).
The BBC could now face potential legal action if the women employed by the corporation wish to press discrimination charges. Ruth Gamble, of employment solicitors BDBF, told The Huffington Post: “If the BBC’s list of salaries shows that a female presenter on a primetime show is being paid less than a male presenter on the same show or a similar one, they have the makings of a good sex discrimination or equal pay claim.”
She continued: “To defeat such a claim, the BBC would have to demonstrate that there is an explanation for the difference, which has nothing to do with gender. It will not be an easy argument.”
There is also a noticeable imbalance in earnings when it comes to race. Of the BBC’s 96 top earners, just ten are people of colour, with the highest-paid — news presenter George Alagiah and Radio DJ Trevor Nelson — each making between £250,000 and £300,000.
The decision to publish the salaries comes after increased pressure for the BBC to be “more transparent,” led by campaigns from news publications such as The Daily Mail. In 2015, then-Prime Minister David Cameron ordered the BBC to disclose stars’ salaries over £450,000, but last year that threshold was lowered by current PM Theresa May to £150,000.
“The issue about BBC salaries has been a very long-standing campaign – at least 15 years,” Claire Enders, a media analyst told HuffPost UK. “That’s really always been part of the Daily Mail’s professed view that public sector broadcasting has left-wing bias and Brexit bias, that the BBC is in a world of its own, and that it talks down to people who read the Daily Mail.
“The argument as far as I can tell is that people should work for nothing or practically nothing for the privilege of working for the BBC – but this isn’t something they apply to themselves.”
The BBC is a non-commercial channel funded by the public through licence fee payments. The corporation, which includes eight TV stations, plus many national and regional radio stations, is estimated to have reached 95% of all UK adults on average per week last year, according to the new annual report.
Enders pointed out that this accomplishment might explain the high salaries. “People should look at these figures in terms of the audience share — licence fee payers don’t have to sit through ads, they get high quality. This is value for money.”
Since the salaries were published, social media has been buzzing with responses, with those criticizing and defending the BBC.
TV presenter Piers Morgan, never one to miss an opportunity to throw dirt at the BBC, was one of the first to comment, breaking the embargo by revealing the salaries on Twitter ahead of the official announcement.
Others were not so pleased with Morgan’s antics and came to the BBC’s defence.