BBC presenter Samira Ahmed will argue that Jeremy Vine was paid nearly seven times more than her for equivalent work over a number of years in an equal pay battle with the BBC this week.
Ahmed was paid £440 per episode to present Newswatch between 2012 and 2015, when her pay briefly rose to £465, while Vine earned £3,000 per episode of Points of View between 2008 and 2018.
Vine’s pay was cut to £1,300 per episode in January 2018. Six months earlier he had been revealed as the BBC’s highest-paid journalist, earning up to £750,000 a year, which included pay for his Radio 2 presenting role.
Ahmed continues to present Newswatch, which airs on BBC One and the BBC News channel. Vine left Points of View in July last year.
Both shows are under 15 minutes long and cover audience feedback on BBC content. Newswatch focuses on opinions about BBC news coverage.
The BBC will argue that the two shows do not have the same profile in defending the case at Central London Employment Tribunal.
A spokesperson said: “The BBC is committed to equal pay. Points of View is an entertainment programme with a long history and is a household name with the public. Newswatch – while an important programme – isn’t.”
Figures released by the NUJ, however, show the BBC One audience for Newswatch peaks at 1.9m on average, with a further 100,000 on the BBC News channel, while Points of View reaches 800,000 viewers.
The BBC said Ahmed was paid the same as her male predecessor, Raymond Snoddy, when she began presenting Newswatch in 2012.
Snoddy told Press Gazette: “Samira was paid the same as I was as Newswatch presenter, but the disparity between that and Jeremy Vine’s Points of View, despite being ‘an entertainment’ programme, is surely unacceptably large.”
Ahmed also presents Front Row on Radio 4 and the BBC News Channel. She began her career at the BBC as a graduate news trainee in 1990 and has also worked for Channel 4 News.
Ahmed’s claim is backed by the National Union of Journalists. She was supported by a number of BBC News colleagues, including Breakfast’s Naga Munchetty, as she arrived at the tribunal court this morning.
Ahmed said in a statement: “I love my job on Newswatch despite it being difficult and challenging.
“I know that it is an important part of demonstrating the BBC service to all its audiences and the licence-fee payers. 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.
“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 has already secured an agreement from the BBC to receive full backdated pay with her male counterparts for her work on Front Row and Night Waves/ Free Thinking on BBC Radio 3.
On Front Row her male comparator was being paid 50 per cent more than her, according to the NUJ. On Night Waves her male comparator was being paid 33 per cent more.
A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC is committed to equal pay. Points of View is an entertainment programme with a long history and is a household name with the public. Newswatch – while an important programme – isn’t.
“Samira was paid the same as her male predecessor when she began presenting Newswatch. Gender has not been a factor in levels of pay for Points of View.
“News and entertainment are very different markets and pay across the media industry reflects this.”
Ahmed’s case was expected to begin today but was delayed as the BBC had resisted the disclosure of certain documents.
The tribunal judge ordered that they should be disclosed and evidence in the case will now begin on Wednesday morning. It is expected to continue until next Tuesday.
Ahmed is represented by Caroline Underhill, equal pay practice lead at Thompsons Solicitors, and Claire Darwin, a barrister specialising in employment and discrimination law at Matrix Chambers.
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.
“Unfortunately, despite Samira going through a lengthy and frustrating internal process in the hope that a sensible solution could be achieved, the BBC has not resolved this case and it will now be for the tribunal to determine whether this monumental pay gap is appropriate and defensible.
“Samira is to be congratulated for her persistence and determination to secure fair and equal treatment by her employer.”
Former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger added his support, calling Ahmed “one of the BBC’s stars”.
“On television and radio Samira’s presence is authoritative, firm but fair and with a good sense of humour,” he said, “whether on the News Quiz, interviewing stars on Front Row or grilling BBC editors on Newswatch.”
The BBC apologised to ex-China editor Carrie Gracie last year following a pay grievance and admitted that she had been underpaid compared to her male counterparts.
The corporation has continued to cut pay for its top-earning male presenters, according to the latest release of salaries for its journalists earning more than £150,000 in July, while pushing up pay for female talent.
The BBC has pledged to close its gender pay gap by 2020.
Picture: Press Gazette