BBC Annual Report and Accounts 2017-18: Equal pay at the BBC Contents

1Background

1.Following the recommendation of our predecessor Committee in August 2016, under new transparency rules agreed in its new Royal Charter, the BBC is required to publish a list of all employees earning over £150,000.1 In July 2017, this list was published for the first time.2 Its publication generated criticism, due to the very small number of women amongst top-earning staff. The BBC’s figures for 2016–17 showed that two-thirds of those earning more than £150,000 were men, including the seven highest earners.3 Chris Evans was reported as the BBC’s highest-paid ‘celebrity’, earning £2.2 million that financial year.4 The highest-paid female ‘celebrity’ was Claudia Winkleman, who was paid £450,000-£500,000, around one-fifth of what Evans received.5

2.The publication sparked further controversy when staff came forward to allege that this pay imbalance, based on sex, was replicated throughout the BBC. BBC Women, a group of 170 female employees, told us that:

[The list] revealed a shocking pay gap between some men and women doing directly comparable jobs [ … ] it subsequently emerged that women [within the BBC] at all levels, all over the UK as well as abroad, doing jobs on and off air for the BBC [were] similarly affected and this [had] been the case for decades.6

Our inquiry

3.In January 2018 BBC China Editor Carrie Gracie resigned via an open letter detailing alleged pay discrimination at the BBC. She accused the BBC of operating a “secretive and illegal pay culture” that systematically discriminated against women.7 Her letter stated that:

For BBC women this is not just a matter of one year’s salary or two. Taking into account disadvantageous contracts and pension entitlements, it is a gulf that will last a lifetime. Many of the women affected are not highly paid “stars” but hard-working producers on modest salaries.8

She asked for the BBC to “admit the problem, apologise, and set in place an equal, fair and transparent pay structure”.9

4.Following Carrie Gracie’s resignation, we decided to begin an inquiry on pay at the BBC. We received further evidence from the BBC Women group arguing that “the BBC has failed to pay men and women equally for equal work, in breach of the Equality Act 2010, over many years”.10 In February 2018 we held an evidence session with Carrie Gracie, the General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, Michelle Stanistreet, and senior BBC officials, to explore these issues further.

5.In the months following this session, it emerged that many BBC presenters had suffered financial hardship after setting up personal service companies (PSCs), at the insistence of the BBC. We received a ‘dossier’ of anonymous testimonies, cataloguing the damaging impacts that presenters had suffered as a result of the BBC’s actions.11 We held a second evidence session in March 2018 to investigate these issues further. BBC management declined our invitation to give evidence at this session.12 The corporation cited its “very recent” appearance before the committee (this was, in fact, nearly two months prior) and needing additional time to receive feedback on its proposals for a new on-air framework for presenters.13 We did not consider these to be convincing reasons, and found the BBC’s non-attendance frustrating.

6.In September 2018 we held a third evidence session to assess the BBC’s Annual Report (published in July) and to take stock of developments on unequal pay during the intervening period. We held the evidence session in Salford and carried out informal meetings and a visit to BBC Studios during the visit.

7.It has become established Committee practice to examine the BBC’s Annual Report. This year’s assessment will take place via this report, alongside our assessment of pay and employment conditions for BBC staff and presenters.

8.We received a range of evidence on BBC Pay, including written testimonies from over 40 individuals working for the BBC.14 A full list of witnesses can be found at the end of this report. We are grateful to everyone who gave evidence to this inquiry, and especially the women and men who spoke to us about their (sometimes very difficult) experiences.


1 Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Royal Charter for the continuance of the British Broadcasting Corporation, Cm 9365, December 2016, p 19

3 Ibid,

4 Ibid, p 10

5 Ibid

6 BBC Women (PAY0003) para 2

7 National Union of Journalists, Carrie Gracie Open Letter

8 Ibid

9 Ibid

10 BBC Women (PAY0003), para 1

11 BBC Presenters (PAY0011)

12 BBC further supplementary - note on the BBC’s position in relation to PSCs (PAY0012)

13 BBC further supplementary - note on the BBC’s position in relation to PSC (PAY0012)

14 BBC Women (PAY0003), BBC Presenters (PAY0011)




Published: 25 October 2018