Presenter Samira Ahmed has accused the BBC of gender discrimination in evidence during an explosive legal battle, in which she is claiming she was paid significantly less than male counterpart Jeremy Vine for hosting a similar show.
Ahmed is seeking £693,245 ($892,442) in lost earnings at an employment tribunal in London, the first case of its kind since the BBC was caught up in a gender pay scandal after China editor Carrie Gracie resigned last year in protest over her salary.
In a witness statement, Ahmed said “it just does not seem fair” that she was paid £440 for hosting an episode Newswatch, while at the same time, Vine took home £3,000 for recording an episode of Points of View. Both formats invite viewers to offer feedback on BBC output.
Ahmed set out in the 53-page statement why the shows involve similar work and provide audiences with a similar service, arguing that it was not the case “the demands of the job were greater on Jeremy Vine.” In fact, Ahmed said she plays a bigger role in preparing for and making Newswatch than Vine did on Points of View, adding that Vine “spends less time in make-up than I do,” given women are “more likely to be criticised for their appearance on air.”
In a section of her statement titled “discrimination against me as a woman,” Ahmed said the majority of the BBC’s top earners are men and that “men are more likely to be seen as stars or at least stars that should be paid very highly.” She added that women are not “gifted” the same opportunities as men, claiming that Vine was handed his BBC Radio 2 show having had “no experience or profile as an entertainment star.”
“I am not sure I have been given the real reasons for the difference between my pay and that of Jeremy Vine over the years. So I still cannot understand how pay for me, a woman, could be so much lower than for Jeremy Vine, a man, for presenting very similar programmes and doing very similar work,” she said.
In its defense, the BBC said that Points of View is an entertainment show on BBC One that has traditionally been hosted by a household name, while Newswatch is a news show on the “relatively niche” BBC News channel. It has also said Ahmed was paid the same as her Newswatch predecessor, Ray Snoddy.
“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,” a spokesman added.
The tribunal continues until Tuesday 5 November.