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Friday 10 January 2020

BBC Loses Samira Ahmed Employment Tribunal Case

BBC journalist Samira Ahmed was unfairly discriminated against because of her gender, an Employment Tribunal has concluded.

Ahmed, who presents the Newswatch programme on the BBC News channel, reportedly receives £500 an episode. Jeremy Vine, one of the the BBC's leading male presenters, reportedly receives around £3,000 for each episode of the Points Of View programme that he presents.

The 51-year-old presenter, who started as a BBC journalism trainee in 1990, is seeking £693,000 in back pay to cover the disparity.

In her written submission to the Tribunal, Ahmed claimed to put in more hours than her male counterpart. She also said her role was more demanding, because she often wrote her own scripts, whereas Vine's were written for him.

In addition, she said: "It is likely that Jeremy Vine spends less time in make-up than I do. Women are more likely to be criticised for their appearance on air."

Ahmed also suggested that Vine had an unfair advantage at the BBC, because he was male.

"I was struck by how Jeremy Vine was gifted the Radio 2 lunchtime show as a successor to Jimmy Young in 2003," she said.

"That was a controversial appointment at the time and led to many complaints. Prior to that he had been a news journalist with no experience or profile as an entertainment star.

"BBC stuck by him and he was eventually cemented in the role. Women are not gifted these opportunities."

The Tribunal unanimously concluded that the BBC had failed to provide convincing evidence that the pay gap was for reasons other than gender discrimination, although the BBC continues to dispute this.

During the Tribunal the BBC downplayed the audience for Newswatch, arguing that the programme should not be considered in the same league as Points Of View, which was broadcast on BBC One.

The Tribunal rejected the BBC's assertion that Jeremy Vine was entitled to greater remuneration due to the complexities of presenting the Points Of View programme.

In a withering assessment, the judgment said: "Jeremy Vine read the script from the autocue. He read it in the tone in which it was written. If it told him to roll his eyes, he did. It did not require any particular skill or experience to do that."

Ahmed said she was glad the case was resolved after years of dispute with the broadcaster. She said: "I love working for the BBC. No woman wants to have to take action against their own employer."

The National Union of Journalists, which backed Ahmed's claim, said there were about 20 other cases involving claims of unequal pay at the BBC heading to tribunal, while another 70 cases remained unresolved.

Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the NUJ, said: "Since the hearing I met with the BBC and I pressed them to use this window of opportunity to think: 'Actually we need to put effort into resolving these outstanding cases, not putting ourselves through the self-harm of another tribunal like Samira's.' Some of them have already been satisfactorily resolved. But there are still more to sort out."

In response to today's judgment a BBC spokesperson said: "We’ll need to consider this judgment carefully. We know tribunals are never a pleasant experience for anyone involved. We want to work together with Samira to move on in a positive way."

Last week we reported that BBC bosses were working behind the scenes to avoid similar Employment Tribunal claims in the future.

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