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BBC spends £1million fighting equal pay claims

THE BBC has spent more than £1 million fighting equal pay and race discrimination cases brought by its own staff.

The BBC has been widely criticised over pay inequalities since a discrepancy in earnings between Carrie Gracie, its former China editor, and her colleagues was revealed in 2017. She resigned in protest. The BBC has since been chastised by MPs for spending funds on legal fees that could be better used supporting the free licence for over-75s and paying journalists facing job cuts.

External solicitors and barristers were paid to deal with tribunal claims, in addition to in-house legal experts spending 2,000 hours tackling cases. The costs have been laid out in a letter to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, which pressed Tim Davie, the BBC director-general for the figures in 2020.

The committee chairman, Julian Knight MP, said: “It is unbelievable that the BBC has spent more than £1 million of licence fee payers’ money fighting claims brought by its own staff about equal pay and race discrimination. Money that could have gone into making programmes or alleviating licence-fee costs for the over 75s has instead been used to pay the salaries of barristers and lawyers. And this at a time when the corporation is struggling to balance its books with hundreds of journalists’ jobs being cut. This disclosure sits uncomfortably against the BBC’s claim that it offers value for money".

Mr Knight added that the delay in providing MPs with figures showed a “disregard for public scrutiny”, saying that, despite what he called the BBC’s “comprehensive internal accounting procedures”, he was “disappointed” when figures for legal bills were not forthcoming last year.

In 2020 a gender pay employment tribunal against the publicly funded broadcaster was won by Samira Ahmed, the Newswatch presenter, who won a sex discrimination pay claim receiving £700,000 in back pay from her employers. It is understood that more than 500 pay revisions have been made for female staff in recent years.

A spokesman for the broadcaster said that like other employers the “BBC does need to be able to make its case”. 

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