29 JANUARY 2018

The Fawcett Society's Chief Executive Sam Smethers has written an open letter to BBC Director-General Tony Hall in light of unequal pay at the BBC, and the broadcasters decision to remove some women reporters from air. 

The open letter reads: 

Dear Mr Hall,

Re: Unequal pay and decisions to remove some women broadcasters from air – Open Letter

As you may know, the Fawcett Society is the leading UK charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights. One of the issues we campaign on is equal pay and closing the gender pay gap. 

I am extremely concerned to hear that women broadcasters at the BBC are reporting to us that news items they had recorded on the equal pay story have been pulled from air and not broadcast. This includes at least one interview with a Fawcett Society staff member which was a simple factual piece about the difference between the gender pay gap and unequal pay. So it is now impacting directly on our ability to get coverage via the BBC.

Yet we have recently heard John Humphry’s and Evan Davis’ personal views aired, but apparently without any impact on their freedom to broadcast on the issue. I would therefore be grateful if you could clarify why some female broadcasters are finding that they are having items pulled from air however male broadcasters who have also expressed clear personal views about the issue appear to be unaffected? Have you considered that in doing this and apparently treating women and men differently you may be strengthening any legal claim that might be brought against you?

I am also at a loss to understand the BBC’s approach to the issue of equal pay within the organisation. The actions that you are taking seemed designed to make the women at the BBC feel undervalued and disregarded and demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding of the issue of unequal pay. In some cases, we are talking about women with decades of service at the organisation, women who remain deeply committed to all the good things that the BBC represents and without whom you would be unable to deliver such high quality, impactful journalism. This is doing great harm to the reputation of the organisation, and corroding the culture within it. A generous interpretation is that you are being poorly advised, so I write to offer you our assistance.

Equal pay is a legal right that women have had for nearly 50 years. It is not a matter of opinion. The law clearly states that women are entitled to equal pay for equal work and work of equal value. Any differences need to be objectively justified. If some broadcasters are deemed to be worth more than others, then that must be based on something and evidenced. If the difference cannot be objectively justified and a woman is earning less than her male colleagues (and of course there is also a pattern here where women are consistently earning less than their male colleagues), then you need to correct the inequality as quickly as possible.

The only way forward is to resolve any pay inequality that exists and do it now. I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely

Sam Smethers
Chief Executive, Fawcett Society

Read Fawcett's comment on the BBC's announcement that it will carry out sweeping pay reviews here. You can see our comment on the BBC gender pay gap here, and our comment following news of Carrie Gracie's resignation as China Editor here.

See the full list of top earners at the BBC here.

Fawcett's campaigning led to new gender pay gap reporting legislation, which requires organisations with over 250 employees to publish data on their gender pay gaps, including bonuses, by April 2018. 


If you believe in the work we do, support our work by becoming a Fawcett member today.