Female TV presenter Samira Ahmed wins equal pay claim against BBC

A November 2019 photo showing journalist, writer and broadcaster Samira Ahmed in London. PHOTO: AP

LONDON (AFP) - A British female news presenter who was paid one sixth of the fee earned by a male presenter on a similar show won her discrimination case against the BBC on Friday (Jan 10).

An employment tribunal ruled the corporation failed to prove the disparity in pay between Samira Ahmed and Jeremy Vine was "because of a material factor which did not involve subjecting the claimant to sex discrimination".

Both journalists present shows where the viewers are given a chance to air their opinions.

The BBC is regularly scrutinised over the amounts it pays top stars and has also faced several major stories about female staff being paid less than their male equivalents.

Ahmed, who argued she was owed almost £700,000 (S$1.2 million) in back pay, welcomed the ruling.

"No woman wants to have to take action against their own employer. I love working for the BBC," she said in a statement released through the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

The BBC responded that Ahmed was "an excellent journalist and presenter, and we regret that this case ever had to go to tribunal".

But it defended its actions.

"We have always believed that the pay of Samira and Jeremy Vine was not determined by their gender," it said.

"Presenters - female as well as male - had always been paid more on Points Of View than Newswatch."

The BBC said Points Of View requires the presenter to deal with issues "in a light-hearted way", so its presenters have tended to be "well-known figures in the world of light entertainment" meriting a higher market fee.

Newswatch "deals with matters seriously" on the "relatively niche" BBC News Channel.

It is only repeated on the main BBC One channel during the Saturday breakfast show "to fill out the programme", the corporation said.

The 15-minute weekly Points Of View show started in 1961 and features viewers' praise and criticisms across the whole spectrum of BBC programmes in a dry, humorous style.

Newswatch, a 10-minute weekly programme, started in 2004 in an attempt to make the corporation's news output more accountable, and gives viewers the right of reply on news coverage.

Ahmed started fronting Newswatch in 2012 on £440 - the same as her male predecessor Ray Snoddy.

Her occasional male stand-ins have been paid a near-identical amount.

Vine took over on Points Of View in 2008 on £3,000 - £500 less than his predecessor Terry Wogan.

In 2018, journalist Carrie Gracie resigned as BBC's China editor over what she called an "indefensible pay gap" with other international editors at the publicly funded media behemoth.

The previous year it published for the first time the salaries of its highest-paid stars, following pressure from parliament.

The BBC's disclosures revealed 12 of the top 14 were men, as were two-thirds earning more than £150,000.

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