The BBC has been accused of censorship after presenters who expressed their support for equal pay were barred from covering the story of Carrie Gracie, the China editor who has resigned her post.
Gracie left her job in protest at being paid significantly less than Jon Sopel, the BBC’s North America editor, and Jeremy Bowen, the Middle East editor. Bosses told her their jobs were “worth more”, she said.
Scores of BBC women and a number of men at the corporation tweeted their solidarity with Gracie after she wrote an open letter to licence fee payers.
But the BBC swiftly issued a “reminder” to staff, authorised by the news director, Fran Unsworth, saying they were bound by impartiality rules and could not report on the story if they had “expressed a view”.
It led to farcical scenes at Broadcasting House. Gracie had timed her statement to coincide with her stint as a presenter on Radio 4’s Today programme, but had to sit by her microphone in silence while John Humphrys spoke about her case.
An hour later, Gracie was allowed to discuss her situation on Woman’s Hour – but the show’s presenter, Jane Garvey, had to hand over to a non-BBC presenter drafted in to conduct the interview, because Garvey is a campaigner for equal pay.
Evan Davis of Newsnight was a lone voice offering support for the BBC, arguing that equal pay should not be a given. “No junior actor working alongside Tom Cruise should expect to get the same pay as him. I would not have expected to get the same as John Humphrys when I joined the Today programme.”
Other presenters ignored the rules, or else were not reminded of them by managers. Simon McCoy conducted an interview on the BBC News channel despite tweeting that his “brilliant friend” Gracie had his full support.
As most BBC women had tweeted in solidarity with Gracie, reporting on the story was effectively left to men. Jess Phillips, the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, said she would be writing to the director-general, Lord Hall of Birkenhead. “It is tantamount to shut up little women!” she tweeted.
One anonymous BBC presenter told Press Gazette: “It’s like life under Stalin.”
Lord Hall was notable by his absence from the news bulletins yesterday, along with every other senior BBC executive.
The BBC is facing further high profile resignations by women journalists over unequal pay. Garvey told BBC Radio 5 Live: “I fear that there might be more situations like the one we’re in.”
Last night, the Equality and Human Rights Commission said it will write to the BBC over the claims of unlawful pay discrimination made by Gracie, and will request all relevant information before deciding whether further action is required.
Dozens of women have lodged individual grievance procedures against the corporation over pay, while 121 women are part of a group complaint lodged through the National Union of Journalists. A number are being advised by Mishcon de Reya, the London law firm.
The BBC refused to discuss Gracie’s case yesterday. But she told Channel 4 News: “The BBC say that the reason for the pay gap between me and my male counterparts is because of genuine material factors that make their jobs worth more than mine.”
She claimed the BBC had not explained what the benchmarks were. “I suspect the reason why they don’t come up with any answers on that is because there is no good answer that would actually stand up at tribunal.”
Gracie is paid £135,000 per year, and turned down a £45,000 pay rise offered during her grievance procedure.
“I didn’t want more money, I wanted equality and this was not equality. There is still a big gap between myself and my male peers,” she said.
The BBC’s other female international editor, Europe editor Katya Adler, is paid less than £150,000. Bowen is in the £150,000-199,999 bracket, and Sopel earns £200,000-249,999.
Article Source : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/08/bbc-accused-censoring-women-support-carrie-gracie-equal-pay/