Someone asked why Sara Cox wasn’t hosting the BBC Radio 2 morning show – and Riley immediately shut them down.
Earlier this week, Zoe Ball was unveiled as the first woman presenter of the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show would be replacing Chris Evans. This follows a long presenting career which began in the Nineties, when she hosted Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast and the BBC One children’s programme Live & Kicking.
“To be the first woman to present this very special show is both an honour and privilege,” said Ball, explaining that she would be taking over in January 2019.
“Believe me, I’m not underestimating the enormity of the task ahead, to follow not one but two of my broadcasting idols, into such a well-loved show is somewhat daunting.”
But while many were excited by the news, some have suggested that Sara Cox – who often acts as a stand-in for Evans – should have succeeded him. Indeed, the Cox vs Ball debate has raged on social media ever since the announcement, only increasing in intensity after Cox humorously responded to people commiserating that she hadn’t got the job.
“I did get it!” she joked. “Zoe is just filling in for the 42 weeks I’m on holiday… thanks though x.”
One person who refuses point-blank to be drawn into the debate, though, is Rachel Riley.
The Countdown host made her feelings on the matter very clear when a social media challenged her to “solve” the puzzle of Ball’s hiring for him.
“My son is ace at maths for a five-year-old but even I’m struggling with his latest maths puzzle,” he tweeted.
“If @sarajcox > @ZoetheBall and #BreakfastShow > #NotBreakfastShow How does @sarajcox = #NotBreakfastShow yet @ZoeTheBall = #BreakfastShow.
“Can anybody help? It’s a tricky one @RachelRileyRR!”
Riley, unimpressed at the user’s attempt to drag her into a Twitter spat, responded simply: “Don’t be a dick, Mike.”
Unfortunately, this Cox vs Ball debate has distracted many people from the true issue: Ball will not receive the same pay as her male predecessor.
The news comes a year after the BBC published the salaries of its top-earning talents, revealing that only a third of the broadcaster’s top earners are women.
The data also confirmed that the broadcaster’s highest-paid male star, Evans, earned a whopping £2.2 million in 2016 (over 75% more than the highest-paid woman, Claudia Winkleman, who made £450,000).
Addressing the pay gap, Ball – who earned £250,000 and £299,000 for her work for the BBC in 2017 – told BBC News that she did not expect to be paid the same as Evans.
“I’m definitely not expecting the same, but I have to say we’ve discussed fees and I’m very, very happy with what the BBC are paying,” she said.
“If it’ll all come out one day as these things tend to, I hope people say, ‘that’s fair’.”
The BBC has pledged to close the gender pay gap by 2020.