BBC criticised for not revealing pay in commercial department

BBC criticised for not revealing pay in commercial department

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The BBC has claimed it does not know how much some of its top stars are paid, as they are part of the broadcaster’s commercial department BBC Studios.

Many BBC shows are made by independent production companies - which do not have to reveal their salaries - and last year, changes were made so that presenters and actors working for the corporation’s commercial department, BBC Studios, could also keep their pay private.

BBC Studios stars include Strictly Come Dancing's Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman and the casts of Doctor Who and EastEnders.

In a written submission to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, published on Wednesday, the BBC said: “The Government agreed that BBC Studios should be treated on a level playing field with independent production companies.

“In order for the BBC to compete in an increasingly global market for talent we continue to believe this is essential.

“The BBC does not have information about payments made to talent by independent production companies.

“When we commission a programme from an independent production company, we negotiate a price for the programme - individual contractual arrangements with talent are a matter for them."


'Responsibility to lead'

The committee responded saying the BBC had a “responsibility to lead on issues of pay”.

"The BBC, as a publicly funded body, has a responsibility to lead on issues of pay and transparency,” they said.

“The BBC chooses to call its independent production arm 'BBC Studios' because of the strength of the BBC's reputation, and we find the suggestion extraordinary - from the perspective of licence fee payers - that the BBC does not have information from BBC Studios as to the level of remuneration it pays to talent.

“We recommend that the corporation re-think this decision ahead of its forthcoming Annual Report."

In its response to the committee's criticisms, a BBC spokesperson said: "You only need to look at the significant reforms we've made to our pay and grading structures to see how much has changed, and we've also dealt with many of the individual pay queries raised with us.

"While we do not agree on everything the committee says, we have acknowledged previously that we still have more to do - particularly to finish addressing the individual pay queries and grievances. We will update on this in our annual report."


'Very suspicious'

The committee also found that women at the broadcaster were still paid "far less" than men.

The committee's report states: "We are very disappointed that the BBC has failed to acknowledge that a pay discrimination problem exists within the Corporation.

"We are aware of ongoing concerns among female staff at the BBC. We believe that, had we not decided to undertake our inquiry, internal BBC action may not have been initiated in the same way.

"We reiterate the conclusion of our inquiry: that our evidence suggests women within the BBC are working in comparable jobs to men but earning far less. This is unacceptable: the BBC is failing to live up to its duty to advance equality of opportunity."

Mr Collins, who chairs the committee, has voiced concerns that lack of transparency over pay can lead to inequality, and a lack of scrutiny on behalf of the license fee-paying public.

He said: "There is a concern raised in our report that the BBC is not going to disclose salaries.

"This will make licence fee payers very suspicious, and people should have a right to know where it's being spent.

"I think there is a certain defensiveness from the BBC, which I don't think they [licence fee payers] have much empathy for."