A senior BBC executive described working as a presenter for the television show Points of View, hosted at the time by Jeremy Vine, as “easy money” while discussing the presenter’s pay.
Jon Swain, then head of unscripted productions for BBC Studios, suggested stand-in presenters for Points of View were happy to be paid £1,000, describing it as “easy money as it’s little work”.
The BBC presenter Samira Ahmed launched a landmark equal pay case last month, claiming she was paid 85% less than her male equivalent. Ahmed states she was paid £440 an episode for presenting Newswatch since 2012, at a time when Vine, her male equivalent at the BBC, was initially paid £3,000 an episode for presenting Points of View.
The negotiation to reduce Vine’s pay per episode was discussed in a January 2018 email between Swain and Lisa Opie, managing director, factual at BBC Studios, which was submitted as part of a bundle of documents at the employment tribunal in central London. Roger Leatham, director of business affairs, referred to the email in a witness statement.
In the email Swain wrote: “Jeremy has been pretty understanding and indicated to David that he wants £1,500 (think that’s half his current rate) but hinted that he would probably settle at £1,300. I believe stand-in presenters have been paid £1k and been very happy (easy money as it’s so little work). Let me know if that’s enough ammo/information to get him to £1,300.”
In 2018, the BBC agreed to commission two more series of Points of View, 20 programmes in total, at a lower tariff. The BBC spoke to Vine offering him £1,300 per episode plus employer’s national insurance contribution, which would bring it up to a cost to the BBC of approximately £1,500.
The public broadcaster has said it was justified in paying Ahmed less than Vine due to differences between news and entertainment shows. The BBC has argued that Newswatch is a news show which requires different presenter appeal to Points of View, which is an entertainment programme.
Simon Miller, the series producer for Points of View, argued against the suggestion that the show required minimal effort, and told the tribunal, “That is not a fair description, and does not reflect Jeremy’s role in the programme.”
He added that as a presenter Vine had a “glint in his eye” and in his witness statement said the show had always been a bit “cheeky” and was able to deal with issues in a lighthearted way. When Claire Darwin, representing Ahmed, asked whether Vine was “a bit of a lad”, Miller responded that being cheeky was a personality trait that was not dependent on one sex or another. Anne Robinson, who presented Points of View from 1987 to 1997, “is famous for doing the wink,” Miller added.
James Mallet, the series producer at Newswatch, said audiences did not want the personality of a presenter to be introduced in news programmes. “I would not expect that to happen because the feeling amongst the audience is that they want the news and news programmes to be delivered straight and neutral,” he told the tribunal.
Earlier on Tuesday, the BBC presenter Emily Maitlis voiced her support for Ahmed. She said: “As somebody who has been in a similar position, my heart goes out to her. I think it’s a really important thing that she’s doing, fighting for other people who’ve got unjust and unequal imbalances.”
She added: “Presumably it is a nationwide or an international problem that we’re all trying to understand and get to grips with, and whether we need more transparency or not is clearly the big issue.”
Ahmed is suing the public broadcaster for £693,245 in lost earnings over claims of unequal pay. She has told the tribunal that Vine was “gifted” his primetime Radio 2 show by BBC management and handed opportunities that were not available to ambitious female presenters.
The tribunal continues.
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