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MPs are to grill BBC bosses over the glaring gender pay gap among its top stars.
The Commons culture, media and sport committee is to question the Corporation’s director general Lord Hall and chairman Sir David Clementi after revelations over the different salaries for its top talent sent shockwaves through the media industry.
Committee chairman, Conservative MP Damian Collins, said: “It can’t be right, for example that older male radio presenters like Steve Nolan and Steve Wright are on double the amount of leading BBC figures like Laura Kuenssberg, and that Sarah Montague isn’t on the list of high paid stars at all, despite presenting the Today programme for many years.
“We will also be questioning the BBC about the loophole that allows them to hide the pay of stars because they are paid via an independent production company, rather than by the BBC directly.
“It is still licence fee payers money however the payment is channelled.”
The BBC was still reeling today from the publication of the pay of nearly 100 stars which showed Top Gear and Radio 2 presenter Chris Evans received between £2.2 million and £2,249,999 during 2016/17.
The highest paid woman was Strictly Come Dancing’s Claudia Winkleman on £450,000 to £499,999, however a further six men were better paid.
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.
Only two women were among the 14 highest paid stars.
Lord Hall admitted that there was a gender pay gap of around ten per cent but insisted that few of the BBC’s top talent did exactly the same job.
Amid anger at the BBC, particularly among many women, there were reports that Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis was considering quitting.
She was not on the list of stars paid at least £150,000 – more than the Prime Minister – but her co-presenter Evan Davis, whose work also included Dragon’s Den, was paid between £250,000 and £299,999.
The Corporation was said to have offered several female presenters significant pay rises ahead of the publication of the top salary list.
Some of the most high-profile men, including Mastermind and Today programme presenter John Humphrys who was on £600,000 to £649,999 last year, are already believed to have taken pay cuts.
BBC director of radio and education James Purnell signalled that more male stars may be offered lower salaries to tackle the gender pay gap rather than giving huge rises to their female colleagues.
He told the BBC’s Newsnight programme: “Quite a lot of men have been taking pay cuts; John Humphrys said that today on air.”
Pressed whether this trend could continue, he added: “I’m not going to start negotiating live on air, but that’s clearly one of the levers we can pull, and we have been doing that.”
However, while the spotlight was on the BBC today, other TV companies, media organisations and companies in other sectors are likely to come under greater pressure to ensure they are not paying women less than men.
Senior Labour MP Harriet Harman tweeted: “Whole media issue. Whole society issue!”
The BBC had resisted publishing the pay list but was forced to do so in £50,000 bands by the Government.
Corporation bosses had argued that doing so would lead to “inflation” in stars’ salaries and BBC presenters being poached by rivals.
However, Peter Fincham, former controller of BBC One, said more pay restraint may now be imposed for BBC staff.
“I don’t believe the inevitable result of this is inflationary,” he said.
“Pay may come down across the sector. Why would commercial rivals over bid for talent if the BBC are limiting or restraining pay?”
The Corporation said it was seeking to reduce its overall talent pay in an environment where costs were going up across the industry.
A spokesman added: “The Government has said we only need to disclose payments made to individuals directly by the licence fee.
“Some well-known names on the BBC are on programmes made by independent production companies. We pay a fee to the company for the delivery of the programmes.
“The decision on what to pay the talent and the contractual obligations rests with the independent producers rather than the BBC.”
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