In the first employment tribunal of its kind since the BBC was embroiled in a gender pay scandal last year when China editor Carrie Gracie resigned in protest over her salary, Ahmed is arguing she should be paid the same as Jeremy Vine, a prominent male presenter.
Ahmed presents Newswatch, a BBC News channel show in which viewer feedback on the BBC’s news coverage is discussed. Since presenting the show in 2012, she was paid £440 ($564) an episode for three years before her salary was raised to £465 in 2015. Her pay was later cut again, however, when freelance presenters became BBC employees.
In contrast, Vine was paid £3,000 ($3,848) an episode to host BBC One’s Points of View, which is similar in format to Newswatch but encompasses the BBC’s television output. He hosted the show for a decade up to 2018, at which point his salary was cut to £1,300 an episode as part of BBC efforts to address its gender pay gap. Vine left Points of View in July 2018.
“I just ask why the BBC thinks I am worth only a sixth of the value of the work of a man for doing a very similar job,” Ahmed said in a statement over the weekend, released through the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), the trade union which is supporting her case.
Ahmed will take to the stand on Wednesday morning at the Central London Employment Tribunal as she sets out her case against her employer. The seven-day hearing was paused on Tuesday after a judge ordered the BBC to disclose documents that it was previously resisting releasing.
The BBC is arguing that Points of View and Newswatch are very different shows and that Ahmed’s salary compared favorably to that of her male predecessor Ray Snoddy. “Points of View is an entertainment programme with a long history and is a household name with the public. Newswatch – while an important programme – isn’t,” a BBC spokesman said.
He added: “Samira was paid the same as her male predecessor when she began presenting Newswatch. Gender has not been a factor in levels of pay for Points of View. News and entertainment are very different markets and pay across the media industry reflects this.”
Ahmed arrived at the Central London Employment Tribunal on Monday flanked by colleagues including Gracie and Naga Munchetty, who was censured last month by the BBC for breaking impartiality rules over comments she made about Donald Trump in a ruling that was later overturned by BBC director general Tony Hall.
Gracie told reporters that Ahmed’s case is one of many that could go to court. “I’m aware of about a dozen cases that are in the pipeline towards a tribunal now,” she reportedly said. “They’ve come out the end of the internal process and they are not prepared to give up. These are extremely brave and determined people.”
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “Unfortunately, despite Samira going through a lengthy and frustrating internal process in the hope that a sensible solution could be achieved, the BBC has not resolved this case and it will now be for the tribunal to determine whether this monumental pay gap is appropriate and defensible.”