Yesterday the BBC published a list of all its journalists, presenters and actors earning over £150k.
It's caused a furore. The top seven earners are all male, the highest paid woman earns four times less than the highest paid man, and the first BAME candidate doesn’t appear until 25th down the list.
The tabloids and Twitter are full of righteous indignation and the BBC has immediately moved into self-flagellation mode.
The government, having forced the report publication, has used the moment to bury a story about a rise in pension age. Call me cynical, but the timing seems rather choice.
There is clearly a gender pay problem at the Corporation. But repeat comments from a range of quarters, such as women need to negotiate harder (actually, women shouldn’t have to adopt male characteristics) and suggestions that the pay discrepancy reflects women’s time out for childbirth, are at best a massive over-simplification and at worst, help reinforce the status quo. It’s utterly depressing.
Salary transparency is critical. Until the government forces organisations of all sizes - not just the BBC and those employing over 250 staff - to publish their pay scales, a gender pay gap will always be in existence.
I’ve written about it before including ten steps businesses can take in the battle for equality.
This is a serious UK business issue that requires cultural change across companies of all types, sizes and sectors.
The government versus the BBC
Back in 1995, I started my joint honours degree in French-Media at what is now known as Leeds Trinity.
Even then part of the curriculum looked at the ongoing tension between the (Tory) government and BBC. We were made to study the BBC in depth and organisational culture (hello Charles Handy at number one and two on the reading list) but also to consider political motivations.
Move forward <clears throat> 22 years, and the situation hasn’t much changed.
The BBC has managed to maintain the licence fee despite sustained attacks on its financial model. But every time there are charter negotiations, its editorial independence comes under further threat.
As with fake news, what underpins this is money and politics.
In 2015, we saw George Osborne force the BBC to pay for TV licences for the over 75s without any public debate.
A public consultation by the culture secretary eventually followed, in which the response was overwhelming support for the BBC and its independence from government.
Even though the majority of people expressly wanted the Corporation to be exempt from commercial pressures and political influence, an independent review was instigated which found that ‘fundamental reform’ of the BBC’s governance was needed.
In April of this year, Ofcom became the BBC’s first external regulator and is now developing an operating framework that looks at content, compliance and competition.
In today’s political and media environment, we really need an impartial body holding power to account. The question is, how long will we have it?