BBC boss: Eight equal pay cases currently open is an ‘achievement’

The corporation’s chief content officer also denied the allegation that BBC radio is ageist.

BBC director-general Tim Davie has said there are eight equal pay cases open internally within the BBC which he feels is an “achievement” in comparison with where the corporation was.

MP John Nicolson questioned Mr Davie during a Culture, Media and Sport Committee meeting on Tuesday on the corporation’s handling of such cases including that of former Northern Ireland newsreader Donna Traynor, who settled a tribunal case earlier this year after alleging she was discriminated against on the basis of age, sex and disability.

Addressing the issue of equal pay, Mr Davie said: “The situation on equal pay is actually a good story for the BBC.

Culture Media and Sport Committee
Tim Davie, director general of the BBC appearing before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee at the House of Commons (House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA)

“We had an enormous amount of work (to) sort through the issue and we’re now at a point at the moment (where) we have eight equal pay cases open internally within the BBC.

“That’s an achievement versus where we were and we’ve also got the pay frameworks in place.

“When we get to a situation which we go to tribunal, no one wants that. All we’re trying to do is make a right call in terms of what’s the right thing to do with licence fee-payer money,” he added.

Mr Nicolson recalled that in September 2021, the BBC told the committee it had spent £1.1 million on lawyers’ fees to deal with equal pay cases from employees.

The select committee member also claimed he had it on “good authority” that between five and 10 journalists are currently at home on full salaries on “gardening leave” and that they were allegedly disproportionately women, and people who have challenged the BBC on equal pay for women.

He also claimed that freelancers have been hired to present the news in their place.

Mr Davie replied: “You’re into a very small number of people where specifically we’re having discussions about their future. I’m not going to do that with the committee …

“I understand the point. I think we need a fair, good conservation with those individuals to make sure they’re settled …

“And while we do that I’m not going to get into the specifics because I don’t think it’s fair.

“But in terms of why we’re doing these things, you’re always going to have to schedule bits where you’re going to use freelancers.”

Broadcasting Press Guild Awards – London
The BBC’s chief content officer Charlotte Moore (Ian West/PA)

Later in the committee meeting, the corporation’s chief content officer Charlotte Moore also denied the allegation that BBC radio is ageist after a number of long-serving presenters left the broadcaster’s stations recently.

Ms Moore said: “Radio is absolutely not ageist. It’s important that we constantly evolve, and some people will leave and we give opportunities to new people, and the BBC has always done that.”

She added: “The competition is such at the moment that there’s huge competition out there and a lot of people choose to leave for very good commercial reasons, and I wish them well, but we therefore have to move the schedules and evolve the schedules and that’s something editorially we do all the time and have always done.”

Mr Davie admitted he did not want Ken Bruce to leave BBC Radio 2, where he had presented his mid-morning show for 31 years, but feels Vernon Kay is an “outstanding broadcaster” to replace him.

Asked if the BBC was not catering to a diverse audience, he added: “You have to look after your loyal audience, the BBC has to do that and it’s critical.

“If you look at our employee record but also our playlists, there will always be people who have issues with our playlists, different artists, different ages. I’ve got plenty of up-and-coming young talent who would love to be on the radio on playlist, and there’ll be 80s artists that will be annoyed that they’re not getting the playlist. I respect that.

“But just to be clear, it is important in the creative world to refresh.

“We did not want Ken Bruce to leave but I think Vernon Kay is an outstanding broadcaster and delivering a fantastic show.”

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