BBC head of news Fran Unsworth says pay equality 'vital' with top talent salaries review due this month

The BBC’s director of news Fran Unsworth has broken her silence about pay equality after a tumultuous 48 hours for the corporation following the resignation of China editor Carrie Gracie.

In an email to staff late yesterday afternoon, seen by Press Gazette, Unsworth said pay equality at the BBC was “vital” and a “priority”.

She said: “This issue has been the subject of a lot of debate, both on the BBC and elsewhere… I want to thank news staff for covering this topic with such integrity.”

“Pay is an issue that we need to resolve swiftly and get right. This is a priority not just for me, but for the entire BBC.

“The public holds us to higher standards than other organisations. We must hold ourselves to those standards too.

“While a significant number of organisations have now published their gender pay figures showing that we are performing better than many – we need to go further.”

The BBC was forced to reveal the salaries of its top-earning on-air talent last year, exposing a 9 per cent gender pay gap (compared to a national average of 18 per cent).

Female journalists also expressed concern that they are paid less than their male counterparts in similar roles.

Gracie said she was paid less than other international editors at the BBC who were male and accused the corporation of a “secretive and illegal pay culture” in an open letter.

An independent pay audit of rank and file staff at the organisation carried out in the wake of the salary revelations found no “systemic discrimination against women”.

The BBC has yet to complete a similar review of its top-earning talent, with Unsworth saying this is now expected to be published at the end of the month.

The report is being carried out by financial services firm PWC and will also be independently assessed by a QC, she said, adding that it would “help inform a new pay policy at the BBC.”

She told staff: “Thanks very much for the work you do, day in, day out. I am proud of the work BBC News does for its audiences and how we go about delivering for them.”

Unsworth had been behind a ruling reminding staff of their obligations under BBC impartiality guidelines that led to presenters who had “stated a position” on equal pay being silenced, a BBC presenter told Press Gazette this week.

Yesterday, radio presenter Winifred Robinson was replaced on the Radio 4 You and Yours programme on impartiality grounds. Robinson had tweeted support for Gracie and pushed for pay equality at the BBC.

Prior to that Gracie was turned and BBC Woman’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey was replaced by former Guardian media editor Jane Martinson to interview Gracie on the programme.

Addressing the issue of BBC pay equality following an urgent question in the House of Commons yesterday, new Culture Secretary Matt Hancock said “much more action” was needed.

BBC director general Tony Hall has pledged to close the gender pay gap by 2020. He has been invited to appear in front of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee with Gracie also set to appear.

Picture: BBC

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