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BBC presenter Samira Ahmed launches landmark equal pay case

The BBC presenter Samira Ahmed has launched a landmark equal pay case, claiming she was paid 85% less than her male equivalent. The case will be heard at the central London employment tribunal over the next seven days.

“On the back of my BBC ID card are written the BBC values, which include ‘we respect each other and celebrate our diversity’ and ‘we take pride in delivering quality and value for money’. I just ask why the BBC thinks I am worth only a sixth of the value of the work of a man for doing a very similar job,” Ahmed said in a statement.

Ahmed will demand hundreds of thousands of pounds in back pay for her work on the BBC programme Newswatch, which she has presented since 2012 and received £440 an episode for. She will claim her male equivalent at the broadcaster was Jeremy Vine, who was paid as much as £3,000 a show for his work on the Points of View programme. The BBC1 audience for Newswatch is 1.5 to 1.9 million. Points of View has 800,000.

“I love my job on Newswatch, despite it being difficult and challenging,” Ahmed continued. “I have a sense of pride working for a public service broadcaster which seeks to represent the diversity of Britain and its licence fee payers.”

Ahmed’s legal case, supported by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), will argue both Newswatch and Points of View are presenter-led programmes lasting about 15 minutes that offer the public the opportunity to air their views on BBC content, and that she has a right to equal pay for equal work. The corporation’s legal team, however, will argue the two presenters were not doing the same or similar work because the programmes are different formats for different audiences.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

“The scourge of unequal pay has no place in our public service broadcaster and that’s why the NUJ is backing Samira’s case and many others. Samira is to be congratulated for her persistence and determination to secure fair and equal treatment by her employer.”

Ahmed has been backed by broadcaster Sandi Toksvig, lawyer Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, who said in a press release:

“I regard her as one of the BBC’s stars. I’m proud that her talent was first spotted by The Guardian. […] She was very much a high profile face of the show. I’m surprised her profile has not always been better recognised by her own employer, the BBC.”

Carrie Gracie resigned from her role as the BBC’s China editor in January last year in protest at inequalities at the BBC, claiming it had a “secretive and illegal pay culture”. Her battle for equal pay began in July 2017 after the BBC published its first list of staff earning more than £150,000. The journalist learned she was on less than North America editor Jon Sopel or Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen despite having asked for equal pay to her male colleagues when she accepted the job in 2013.

BBC director-general Tony Hall has set the challenge of closing the corporation’s gender pay gap by the end of 2020 but across the UK media industry, almost a third of companies saw their gender pay gaps increase (in favour of men) in 2018 compared to 2017.

An analysis by Press Gazette showed 91 per cent of UK-based media companies paid men more than women on average, based on the mean hourly rate, and 85 per cent paid men more in mean bonus pay.

Ash Naji, Head of Communications at IOHR, said: “A healthy press is a pillar of a democratic and fair society. Women have fought hard for their right to equality as journalists and this should be reflected in equitable pay.”

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