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Money talk

Jonathan Baker Jonathan Baker | 16:30 UK time, Friday, 8 December 2006

There's been a lot of hullabaloo about BBC pay rates this year, both salaries for on-air talent (Jonathan Ross) and executive bonuses (Mark Thompson and the BBC's top bosses). So I suppose it's not surprising that the figures revealed in the press today about correspondents' salaries ("Female reporters paid £6,500 less than men by BBC" - Independent) are of interest too, although they are of a rather more modest order.

I'm one of those who has to set those salaries, and there are always many factors to take into consideration. These include experience, level of contribution to the news output, performance and profile. The hardest area to put your finger on is talent - that element of individuality, personality and star quality which people bring to the air waves. Difficult to define and subjective perhaps - but you know it when you see and hear it.

One thing that absolutely isn't a factor is the sex of the correspondent. The figures might seem to point that way, but I think it's more that they reflect that a majority of our senior correspondents are men, with a high level of experience. Which is an issue in itself.


  • 1.
  • At 05:10 PM on 08 Dec 2006,
  • Pippa wrote:

Quite right. It would be interesting to know how many women there are in senior positions? Judging from the contributors to this blog, there aren't many. There's Helen Boaden, the director of BBC News - but what about *editors* of programmes? It seems like Amanda Farnsworth was the only one as "Daytime Editor" - and she's now moved to another job.

  • 2.
  • At 07:48 PM on 08 Dec 2006,
  • Brian Abbott wrote:

a majority of our senior correspondents are men, with a high level of experience. Which is an issue in itself.
Lets dissect this.
Was the 'with a high level of experience' a subliminal slip of the pen? In which case this is ageism ;-)

Or maybe (I guess more probably) it should have been 'higher level ...'. But why on earth should that be an issue? These sort of jobs have been open to women on an equal basis for many years (surely?) - many examples come to mind, starting with Angela Rippon.

In which case, the figures are simply a reflection of the fact that women choose, more often than men, to take career breaks for children ...

All this is a separate issue, of course, from the fact that the average salaries look pretty high by most standards, given that they have no actual managerial responsibilities or - in several cases - any noticeable expertise in the areas they are covering.

Chin chin

Brian Abbott

  • 3.
  • At 10:49 PM on 08 Dec 2006,
  • Syed Hasan Turab wrote:

Complain from Womam reporter's about less paid, I may recommand BBC please justify & decide this less payments issues on the basis of recent survey where it is declared woman are less effecient compairing to men the points were two point some, I hope this justification will bring some sort of satisfaction among female reporters in BBC.
Sorry if my recommandation dont meet your expectations.

  • 4.
  • At 02:34 AM on 09 Dec 2006,
  • Richy wrote:

"hulabaloo": Typically arrogant BBC opinion.

Hi,Jon I agree with your thoughts.And the matter of gender discrimination isn't a matter of concern these days.All you need is talent that counts.Thanks.

  • 6.
  • At 04:51 PM on 10 Dec 2006,
  • Mr Average wrote:

How on earth can you connect "Talent" with Jonathon Ross??

Strange ways of doing things you have. Ever thought of offering half the pay and see if those still wanting the job are good enough?

Crumbs! just seen that Independent article, you really could easily half the pay then!

  • 8.
  • At 08:22 AM on 11 Dec 2006,
  • Charlene wrote:

Anybody who thinks gender discrimination is dead is living in a fantasy world. Ask any woman who's been denied a promotion or a raise because she *might*, at some unnamed future time, have a baby or get married. Ask the woman who gets passed for promotion by the boss's drinking cronies. Ask the woman who tries to fit in and become one of the boss's drinking cronies and is shunned for being "loose". Hell, even ask the male registered nurse who is considered "dangerous" simply because of his sex.

In the real world, gender discrimination is alive and well and ubiquitous. It's foolish and naive to think otherwise.

Does anyone at the BBC see the irony in spending an evening raising money for charity via Children in Need, by using Jonathan Ross and others to encourage normal people to hand over their money? What proportion of his annual earnings did Ross hand over?

  • 10.
  • At 12:23 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

Well, Mr Baker, you seem to have hoist your department good and high. I'm guessing that you didn't run your posting past the BBC's equalities or human resources departments first, because I cannot imagine they would have agreed you professing to use subjective criteria inherently and historically biased against women to determine the remuneration of your female staff.

This bias is of course exactly what has been suspected in News and Current Affairs for decades, where resistance to "equal opportunities" citing the priority of journalistic excellence, and traditional journalistic quality was plainly rife. This being a department that refused to have women national news readers until the late 1970s, on the grounds that women could not have the personal authority, and then appointed a woman noted for her dancing rather her journalistic gravity.

You say the 10.5% average wage differential is due to less experience and less talent. No doubt women get less experience because they are perceived as having less talent, and vice versa too.

Might one suggest that so many of your female presenters and reporters being way above average looks and below average age and height - so they ideally fit the standard pattern of young women looking up admiringly at their male colleagues in twin presenter programmes - might indicate they are not given their initial access to the department on the same grounds as the men, and will then mostly be unable to compete on the same grounds? In other words, although they get a chance, and decorate our screen for a while, they are effectively selected to fail in promotion.

Might one suggest that the fact that subjects that women would be likely to have more knowledge of being considered too "soft" for the news agenda, or "not of majority interest" might have something to do with the range of experience? I note that Jeremy Bowen, in his new book, underlines the importance for career progession of BBC reporters having "good wars" (advice given to him by John Simpson). Could it be that women tending to be less foolhardy in warzones, and editors being more reluctant to send them to warzones, might be later seen as meaning they have "less experience"? It seems unlikely to be coincidence that Kate Adie, who was so known for being in dangerous places achieved such a high ranking at the BBC.

Might one suggest that women's voices being traditionally considered to have less gravitas, and the strange range of clothes that the BBC often seems to have women appear in (do you have a special range of badly fitting, pastel polyester suits for them?) might affect subjective judgements of "talent" that are used in deciding salaries?

Might one ask where your senior women journalists go to, whilst the men remain? After all, the BBC had women reporters in the 1950s. Are they considered not young enough for the screen? We certainly know they were in the past. Where is Kate Adie whilst John Simpson gets increasingly rotund at the same time as more senior?

Do you, in running a nationally important department, still run it in the old journalistic ways that traditionally bought out the best in men; running on stress? Or have you and your colleagues, as equal opportunities have been supposed to be introduced, taken into account that women mostly have different stress responses? Men mostly learn best in conditions of stress, women learn best when not stressed. If you don't allow for for such differences then you discriminate.

It seems to be a huge indictment of BBC News' approach to women journalists that Polly Toynbee, who is more than sufficiently photogenic, informed, coherent, and energetic to be on so many of the BBC's discussion programmes is not used as a BBC correspondent.

  • 11.
  • At 12:50 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
  • David Pugh wrote:

Surely the most important consideration when setting salaries must be the ability to pay them? The hullabaloo is about the arrogant misuse of an annual television ownership tax. Eschew such guaranteed income and let's see you waste £18 million on just one talentless nonentity.

  • 12.
  • At 01:13 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

raj4encoders wrote: "Hi,Jon I agree with your thoughts.And the matter of gender discrimination isn't a matter of concern these days.All you need is talent that counts.Thanks. raj encoders "

Ah, India, ever in the forefront of women's equal opportunities and equal pay.

  • 13.
  • At 07:13 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
  • The Magic Monkey wrote:

Jenny - I'm sure the BBC is more than capable of defending themselves, but you might need to check who one of their previous Social Affairs Editors was, and also consider that (I'm a huge fan of hers by the way, just pointing out the flaw in your argument) she is far too linked now with a particular political outlook to take up a necessarily neutral BBC reporting role again.

  • 14.
  • At 11:44 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
  • J Westerman wrote:

As a mere male I have always had the sneaking suspicion that women have more sense than to commit themselves twenty-four hours a day to one of these top jobs to the exclusion of all the other good things in life.
To make matters worse the more I think about it the more logical their approach seems to be.

  • 15.
  • At 06:51 AM on 12 Dec 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

The Magic Monkey wrote: "Jenny... you might need to check who one of their previous Social Affairs Editors was, and also consider that (I'm a huge fan of hers by the way, just pointing out the flaw in your argument) she is far too linked now with a particular political outlook to take up a necessarily neutral BBC reporting role again."

I'm well aware, thankyou, that she was once Social Affairs Editor (whatever that was supposed to mean). The point is that she isn't still at the BBC. This was a continuation of my asking where the BBC's women reporters go, whilst men continue to the most senior roles, and higher pay.

I'm puzzled just which political "outlook" you feel she now has that mean she is no longer journalistically professional. Given that she had been a prominent Social Democrat before she was at the BBC (for a short while). and a prolific, and widely published social commentator. You couldn't possibly mean she has a critical approach to society, could you?

Please understand that I said it is at least a mark against the BBC that she isn't one of their correspondents, or editors, not that she would want to return there in such a role. I'm not privy to such information. But the BBC lost her, and has turned away, or lost many other good women journalists, and now says (or at least a deputy editor says here) that the women they have are not as experienced or even as talented as some of the men, and so they are paid less, but that it isn't anything to do with their sex.

  • 16.
  • At 05:14 PM on 12 Dec 2006,
  • Kendrick Curtis wrote:

It's pretty obvious that BBC News, like all the other news shows, is filled with ugly old men and pretty young women.

To say that you don't discriminate is beyond astounding.

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