The BBC was aware of the gender pay gap discrepancy and working to close it before the salaries of the top earners were disclosed, the broadcaster’s director of content has said.
Charlotte Moore said the annual report revelations about the pay of the highest earners, which showed Chris Evans earns four times as much as the highest paid woman Claudia Winkleman, was only part of the picture.
She told the Edinburgh International Television Festival: “Obviously as a woman I absolutely agree and fight for gender equality, you only have to look at what I’ve done on BBC One over the last four years to see my commitment and dedication to equality for women, with strong female leads in drama and entertainment and making sure women experts and female talent are right up there, I’m totally committed to that.
“The talent disclosure that the Government asked us to do was for one reason, the by-product was to see the gender pay issues come out.
“It was something we were already working on and were already very aware of and I think if you put it in context, the BBC has a gender pay gap of approximately 10%, that is a lot better than a lot of other organisations.”
Moore said the positive outcome of the salary disclosures for top talent was the Director-General’s commitment to close the gap in the next three years.
She said: “Of course we have got to get better. One of the fantastic repercussions to all of this is Tony Hall said ‘right, by 2020 we are going to close that gender pay gap’. I think that is a big message.
“That list shows a partial story, it’s a story of the top earners and I think if you looked at some context behind it and people who have come on to the list in the last three years, who have been promoted in terms of the women, you can see there is a change going on.
“It’s also very complicated because what you see there is only a partial story and what does it represent in terms of the days they do, what jobs they do, what other jobs they do on top of that.
“We all know culturally that this has been an issue for some years and it’s great it’s all being outed for people to have that conversation to make sure we set targets that we need.
“We need to make sure there is equality.
“I would also say, for me, it’s about gender but, my God, it’s about diversity in a broader sense, too.
“I don’t really look at that and think that is a just gender issue, we need to make sure the talent at the top of the BBC represent modern Britain, we have to make sure we reflect the nation on-screen and off-screen.”
The broadcaster came in for fresh criticism on Wednesday as it emerged almost 1,800 staff had a pay rise above 10% last year, according to a Freedom Of Information request made by The Sun.
The increases averaged nearly £8,000.
Asked if the revelation that high-profile female newsreaders were missing from the list of high earners while male newsreaders were featured prompted angry phone calls from stars and their agents, Moore said: “Clearly this is a topic that anybody, who is a woman in particular, feels strongly about and there are both personal issues and then there is us trying to go ‘let’s really work this out, how we are going to deal with it’.”
She continued: “Clearly we are all addressing it and want to make sure people feel we are addressing it properly.
“We will address it in different ways, there isn’t a one size fits all, we have to look at opportunities as they come up.”
On Wednesday it was announced Andrew Neil is stepping down as host of the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme, to be replaced by BBC Scotland editor Sarah Smith, who is the daughter of late Scottish politician John Smith.
The BBC annual report revealed Neil was earning £200,000-£249,999 for hosting a range of programmes.
Moore called on other broadcasters to follow suit in addressing the pay gap, saying: “It was something we were doing already and something we were aware of but you can’t say ‘by tomorrow we will have sorted it’.
“The BBC are right to be at the vanguard of this, but my God, we need other broadcasters and other institutions to follow suit, this is a big cultural issue, we all need to do it.”