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High profile BBC resignation in response to pay inequality

View profile for Anna Byford

BBC’s China Editor, Carrie Gracie, resigned last night in response to what she called ‘unlawful pay discrimination’. 

In a letter to the BBC audience, which Ms Gracie published last night, she accused the BBC of breaking equality law and resisting pressure for a fair and transparent pay structure. She went on to say that the BBC had four international editors (of which she was one); two male and two female. Last July when the BBC published salaries of those in the organisation earning more than £150,000, Ms Gracie discovered that the two men earned “50 % more than the two women”. Ms Gracie earned £135,000 per annum, whereas Jon Sopel (US Editor) earned £200,000 – 249,000 and Jeremy Bowen (Middle East Editor) earned £150,000 – 199,000.

Ms Gracie has also disclosed that she has been in negotiations regarding her pay with the BBC for 6 months, during which she refused a pay rise of £45,000 from the BBC on principle because it still left a “big gap” between her and her male counterparts at the organisation and she “wasn't seeking a pay rise, just equal pay”.

Equal pay legislation is complex but the fundamental principle that underpins it is that women and men who perform the same or broadly similar work, or work of equal value, should receive equal pay.  In Ms Gracie’s view the situation at the BBC is “not men earning more because they do more of the jobs which pay better. It is men earning more in the same jobs or jobs of equal value. It is pay discrimination and it is illegal.” 

Ms Gracie’s resignation is high profile not only because of her former role but because the organisation she is accusing of illegal pay activity prides itself on honest and transparent reporting. BBC Women, a group of journalists at the BBC who are also fighting for equal pay, tweeted today to disclose that up to 200 women that they know of have made pay complains at the BBC, and that the National Union of journalists is involved in 120 of those cases.

It remains to be seen if Ms Gracie will pursue her complaint in the courts.