BBC Undermines Its Own Output In $892,000 Legal Battle With Samira Ahmed Over Equal Pay

Samira Ahmed
Samira Ahmed. Vickie Flores/LNP/Shutterstock

The BBC has played down the potency of its own output in a legal battle with presenter Samira Ahmed, who is seeking £693,245 ($892,442) in lost earnings at an employment tribunal over equal pay.

In the first case of its kind since the BBC was embroiled in a gender pay scandal, Ahmed is arguing that she was paid significantly less than male presenter Jeremy Vine for hosting similar shows.

Ahmed hosts Newswatch, a BBC News channel show in which viewer feedback on the BBC’s news coverage is discussed. She was paid £440 an episode when she joined the show in 2012, rising to £465 in 2015.

Vine hosted Points of View for a decade up to 2018 — another show inviting audience feedback on BBC programming. He was paid £3,000 an episode, a figure that was more than halved to £1,300 in 2018.

In a summary of the BBC’s defense, made available on Wednesday at the Central London Employment Tribunal, the broadcaster argued that Ahmed hosting Newswatch was not “work of equal value” to Vine presenting Points of View. In doing so, it took the unusual step of undermining its own output.

It said Newswatch broadcasts on the “relatively niche” BBC News channel, while it is repeated on BBC Breakfast at the weekend to “fill out the programme.” In contrast, the BBC said that Points of View is an “extremely well-known programme” with a plumb BBC One slot and an audience of more than 2M when Vine took over in 2008.

A central point in its defense is that Points of View is an entertainment show, requiring a “high-profile mainstream entertainment presenter,” who needs “humour and a light touch.” Newswatch, meanwhile, is a news show dealing with viewer issues with a straight face and “requires a serious, trained journalist.”

The BBC said Ahmed was paid the same amount of money as her male predecessor, Ray Snoddy. It added that the salaries for previous presenters of Points of View show no “disparity in favour of male presenters.” Anne Robinson earned £1,250 an episode by 1997, while Carol Vorderman was paid £1,400 in 1998. This was higher than the £1,250 Des Lynam took home when he succeeded Vorderman.

Tina Daheley currently hosts Points of View, albeit in the significantly slimmed down role of only providing a voiceover for the show. She is paid £400 per episode, which is less than Ahmed takes home for Newswatch.

Ahmed began giving evidence to the Central London Employment Tribunal on Wednesday afternoon, supported by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

In a witness statement submitted to the tribunal, NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “I find it hard to believe that the distinction the BBC seeks to make between Points of View and Newswatch makes a jot of sense. Both are presented by familiar faces. Both aim to give the viewer and listener a voice about BBC content.”

The tribunal continues.

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