BBC Breakfast presenter Steph McGovern has clarified remarks reported by the Sunday Times in which she claimed the BBC focused “too much on ethnic diversity and not enough on class”.
The journalist, who hails from Middlesbrough, also told the paper that “posh women” at the BBC were “paid a hell of a lot more” than those from working-class backgrounds.
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Her comments come as the BBC pushes to achieve a goal of having equal representation of men and women in jobs both on and off the screen, a pledge made by director general Tony Hall after the corporation was revealed last year to have a 9 per cent gender pay gap favouring women.
McGovern, who also presents BBC Watchdog, told the Sunday Times: “We concentrate too much on ethnic diversity and not enough on class. It’s dead important to represent loads of different cultures.
“But what the BBC doesn’t do enough of is thinking about getting people from more working-class backgrounds. It’s just posh.”
In a follow-up post on Twitter, she said she made the remarks in an interview with the education editor at the Sunday Times about her work with charity Young Enterprise, which helps young people learn about business.
“Towards the end of the interview I was aksed about BBC pay and culture,” she said.
“I said I thought the issue wasn’t just about gender, but also about class. I also said that we talk a lot in the BBC about how to be better at ethnic diversity, which is important because we’re not good enough at it.
“However we never talk about class and I suggested that if we did it would make us more diverse in lots of ways, including ethnicity.
“I am in a very fortunate position; I love my job and never dreamed I would have such an amazing career and salary. I grew up in Middlesbrough, a town that is often portrayed in a negative light, but one I love.
“I want the people I grew up with and everyone from a place deemed as ‘poor’ to know that they should never be held back from achieving the best in life and they should be proud of where they’re from.”
McGovern was given a pay rise during contract negotiations, taking her salary into six figures, the Times reported.
She has been working in financial journalism for more than 13 years and as a presenter on BBC Breakfast for the last five.
A BBC spokesperson told the paper: “More than 80 per cent of the BBC’s workforce was educated in state schools and the BBC is more diverse than it has ever been. The BBC has a clear commitment to finding and developing new talent.
“We offer hundreds of apprenticeships to ensure the BBC is open to people from all backgrounds and a range of programmes to help people develop their career once they’ve joined, but there’s always more to do and we have an ambitious diversity strategy.”