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The BBC today faced the threat of legal action from female stars after it emerged that the top-paid male star raked in more than four times the salary of the highest-earning woman.
Only two women were among the 14 highest paid stars, leading to warnings by lawyers than the BBC could face gender pay discrimination cases.
Legal experts warned that the BBC could face employment tribunal claims.
Lawyer Luke Menzies, of gender pay gap specialists Menzies Law, said: “If a BBC employee or contractor is doing the same job or a job of equal value as someone of the opposite sex but are being paid less, then they might have a legal case for equal pay unless the employer can demonstrate that there are good reasons that explain the difference other than their sex.”
Ruth Gamble, Partner at BDBF lawyers, added: “If the BBC’s list of salaries shows that a female presenter on a primetime show is being paid less than a male presenter on the same show or a similar one, they have the makings of a good sex discrimination or equal pay claim.”
Today BBC director-general Tony Hall admitted it needed to go “further and faster on issues of gender and diversity” though stressed that very few of the top talent did precisely the same job.
Chris Evans was the highest paid male star, earning between £2.2 million and £2,249,999 during 2016/17 for his work for the Corporation, which included Top Gear and Radio 2.
His salary far exceeded the £450,000 to £499,999 for Claudia Winkleman, of Strictly Come Dancing, who also works on radio. Six other men also received pay above Winkleman’s.
They included Match Of The Day presenter Gary Lineker, on between £1.75 million and £1,799,999, and chat show host and radio presenter Graham Norton, on £850,000 to £899,999.
BBC Breakfast host Naga Munchetty was paid between £150,000 and £199,999 but co-presenter Dan Walker took home between £200,000 and £249,999, though he also does sports coverage.
Radio 4 Today show presenter Mishal Husain’s pay packet of £200,000 to £249,999 was dwarfed by that of her co-host John Humphrys, who also presents Mastermind. He earned between £600,000 and £649,999.
Among the other “multi-genre” BBC presenters on large salaries were Jeremy Vine, of quiz show Eggheads, on £700,000 to £749,999, BBC News anchor Huw Edwards on £550,000 to £599,999, and Radio 2’s Steve Wright on £500,000 to £549,999.
Tennis legend John McEnroe, a presenter and commentator on the BBC’s Wimbledon team, was paid £150,000 to £199,999 but Martina Navratilova did not make the list.
Men working on the same programme as women also were often paid more. Among the Strictly judges, Darcey Bussell was on between £150,000 and £199,999, while Len Goodman received between £200,000 and £249,999, as did Bruno Tonioli. Craig Revel Horwood had the same pay as Bussell.
The One Show’s Matt Baker was paid £450,000 to £499,999, more than his co-host Alex Jones on £400,000 to £449,999, though he also presents Countryfile.
The BBC annual report and accounts for 2016/17 also showed the overall wage and salary bill at the Corporation rising above £1 billion, with a blackhole in its pension scheme of similar size.
The Corporation has been forced by the Government to publish the salaries of all of its top talent paid at least £150,000, which is as much as the Prime Minister. Overall, about two thirds of the 96 top-earners were men, sparking the gender pay gap row.
Lord Hall said: “Comparing people’s pay is not straightforward. Very few do precisely the same thing — people working at the same show may have other — or different — commitments. Of the top talent who are on the list [who] we have hired or promoted in the last three years, more than 60 per cent are women.”
Damian Collins, chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport committee, said: “Many licence fee-payers will be concerned about the disparity between the number of high-earners that are men, as opposed to the number of senior women that earn over £150,000.”
Lord Hall, who earns from £450,000 to £499,999, fears that being forced to publish the list could lead to salary “inflation” and talent being poached.
A BBC source insisted that female talent had not been given last minute pay hikes in a bid to increase their numbers on the top salary list.
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