The BBC has named the stars at the top end of its pay scale in a new report, simultaneously revealing gender and race disparity in the salaries of the actors, presenters and journalists paid more than £150,000.
Ahead of the report, released today (19 July), the broadcaster had stressed that it was aware of the pay gap issue and was taking steps to resolve it.
However the figures for on-air talent outlined some particularly stark contrasts, with the presenters of some of the BBC’s most well-known shows appearing to receive spectacularly different amounts of license-payers’ money.
Chris Evans, former presenter of Top Gear and host of Radio 2’s weekday breakfast show, was revealed to earn at least £2.2 million. The figure is more than four times that of the top female earner, Strictly Come Dancing presenter and Sunday night Radio 2 host Claudia Winkleman, who earns between £450,000 and £499,999 and came eighth in the list.
The BBC said the report did not include stars who are paid through BBC Worldwide, the corporation’s commercial arm, and the salaries “only refer to the amount of licence fee money each person receives”, adding that it does not detail the “many” stars paid through independent production companies, which would cover shows such as The Great British Bake Off and potentially The Great British Sewing Bee, which Winkleman hosts.
Evans later said he thought it was “right and proper” that license holders knew what presenters were paid, and added: “I think this is the beginning of it [the gender pay gap] being redressed, I imagine.”
Following the release of the figures, director general of the BBC Tony Hall defended Evans’ pay by pointing out the BBC has to compete with commercial TV channels that pay stars considerably more: “Chris Evans is presenting the most popular show on the most popular radio network in Europe.
“The BBC does not exist in a market on its own where it can set the market rates. If we are to give the public what they want, then we have to pay for those great presenters and stars.”
Many also pointed to examples in the broadcaster’s sports coverage, with the wage of former footballer Gary Lineker standing somewhere between £1.75m and £1.8m and that of Clare Balding revealed as being between £150,000 to £199,999.
The top seven earners (all on more than £500,000) are white men, and of the full list of 96 top-earners, only a third are women and just 10 are from a BAME (black, Asian, minority ethnic) background.
Newsreader George Alagiah, sports presenter Jason Mohammad and DJ Trevor Nelson were the only people from a BAME background on the list to earn over £250,000.
Some law firms have since claimed that female presenters such as Balding could be justified in launching a sex discrimination case, with a spokesperson from discrimination lawyers Didlaw telling The Guardian: “Clare Balding would certainly have a case unless the BBC can show there is a substantial and legitimate reason for the discrepancy.”
The second highest female earner was One Show’s Alex Jones, paid between £400,000 and £449,999. She is one bracket lower than co-presenter Matt Baker (£450,000–£499,999), which some believe could be down to his additional commentating work.
Despite the difficulties of direct comparison, given some stars are paid via production companies or undertake more one-off shows, the conspicuously low showing of women and people from a BAME background in the top earners has been acknowledged by the broadcaster as a problem.
The top 10 BBC salaries for on-air talent
1. Chris Evans £2.2m–£2.25m
2. Gary Lineker £1.75m–£1.8m
3. Graham Norton £850,0000–£899,999
4. Jeremy Vine £700,000–£749,999
5. John Humphrys £600,000–£649,999
6. Huw Edwards £550,000–£599,999
7. Steve Wright £500,000–£549,999
= 8. Matt Baker £450,000–£499,999
= 8. Claudia Winkleman £450,000–£499,999
= 9. Nicky Campbell £400,000–£449,999
= 9. Alex Jones £400,000–£449,000
= 9. Andrew Marr £400,000–£449,999
= 9. Stephen Nolan £400,000–£449,999
= 9. Alan Shearer £400,000–£449,999
10. Fiona Bruce £350,000–£399,999
Upon the publication of the salaries, which the BBC had opposed, Hall took the opportunity to set out a “clear target” for gender parity by 2020, and claimed that focusing on recent hires and promotions reflected the broadcaster’s commitment to diversity.
“We’ve set a clear target for 2020: we want all our lead and presenting roles to be equally divided between men and women,” he said.
“It’s already having an impact. If you look at those on the list who we have hired or promoted in the last three years, 60% are women and nearly a fifth come from a BAME background.
“Meeting our goal on this is going to have a profound impact not just on the BBC, but the whole media industry. It’s going to change the market for talent in this country.”
Hall says the gender pay disparity overall stands at 10%, compared to the national average of 18%.
Pointing out that the corporation spends less on top talent now than in previous years (overall, he said the over-£150,000 band made up less than 0.25% of employees), Hall said it had surpassed its target for £700m of savings over the past year.
Images: Rex Features