The BBC offered to pay Jeremy Vine £100,000 if it failed to find him work to the equivalent value during contract negotiations with the presenter.
The “top-up” clause was included in Vine’s pay deal, struck at the end of December 2007. The corporation thought Vine could be used for “ceremonial events” or other forms of output to offset the sum.
- September 17, 2020
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Details of behind-the-scenes talks for Vine were revealed in documents used in evidence at an employment tribunal which is hearing an equal pay claim brought by BBC presenter Samira Ahmed.
They revealed that Vine‘s agent, Alex Armitage, urged BBC bosses to stop “bullying” his client and treating him “like a child” during talks to renew the broadcaster’s contract with the corporation.
Alex Armitage sent “a rather colourful email” to reject an initial offer during contract negotiations at the end of 2007.
Armitage emailed Roger Leatham, then head of operations and business affairs for entertainment for BBC Vision, saying: “The BBC must now stop bullying this artist and pushing him around on this deal and listen to him.
“Stop treating him like a chattel and pay him properly… stop treating Jeremy Vine like a child as he is sick of it now.”
Newswatch presenter Ahmed, who is pursuing the BBC in court, claims she was paid a sixth of what Vine earned while he was presenting Points Of View, a programme she argues is similar.
Ahmed is seeking nearly £700,000 in back pay between November 2012 and February 2019, saying she and Vine did similar work.
The BBC rejects the claim and says the work was not comparable.
Evidence from Leatham, now director of business affairs for BBC Studios, provided an insight into his negotiations with Armitage in 2007 and 2008 as the corporation tried to keep Vine in their employment.
In his witness statement, provided to the media on Monday, Leatham said Armitage “wanted a three-year contract, rather than the usual two years”.
He added: “Financially, Alex stipulated that the total remuneration had to be close to the offer that ITV had apparently made. We were told that offer was close to a seven-figure amount.”
Armitage also told Leatham that ITV had made “a substantial offer and that Sky and Channel 4 also wanted Jeremy for both TV and radio work”.
In his statement, Leatham said the demands made by Armitage were “challenging” for the BBC at the time as it worked to “contain talent fee inflation” due to “limited funds”.
During a Central London Employment Tribunal hearing on Monday, Leatham said the BBC could not ask other channels what they paid talent and he had taken his conversations with Armitage “in good faith”.
“I don’t believe he was lying,” he added.
In his written statement, Leatham said the BBC put “a lot of effort into retaining Jeremy” with then director general Mark Thompson becoming involved, something that was “very unusual”.
But an initial contract offer sent to Armitage in November 2007, which included an opportunity to present daytime TV quiz show Eggheads, was not accepted.
Leatham said: “Alex did not respond well to that offer and he sent me a rather colourful email to reject it.”
Following further negotiations the final agreed deal for Vine covered him working on Panorama, elections coverage, radio work and presenting Eggheads.
The tribunal continues.