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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Senior BBC editor quits over female pay inequality

Carrie Gracie, China editor at the corporation, blasted a “secretive and illegal pay culture”

Carrie Gracie, the BBC's China editor, has resigned that post in a protest against pay inequality at the public broadcaster. BBC
Carrie Gracie, the BBC's China editor, has resigned that post in a protest against pay inequality at the public broadcaster. BBC

One of the leading female editors at the respected British broadcaster, the BBC, has quit her post, saying that inequality in pay with her male colleagues had forced her to leave the institution.

Carrie Gracie, who was the China editor for the corporation and who speaks fluent Mandarin, blasted a “secretive and illegal pay culture” at the BBC. Ms Gracie will return to London to take up a post in the TV newsroom.

A three-decade veteran of the BBC, Ms Gracie addressed a letter announcing her resignation to the “BBC audience”.

“With great regret, I have left my post as China Editor to speak out publicly on a crisis of trust at the BBC. The BBC belongs to you, the licence-fee payer. I believe you have a right to know that it is breaking equality law and resisting pressure for a fair and transparent pay structure,” she wrote.

“In thirty years at the BBC, I have never sought to make myself the story and never publicly criticised the organisation I love. I am not asking for more money. I believe I am very well paid already – especially as someone working for a publicly funded organisation. I simply want the BBC to abide by the law and value men and women equally.

“On pay, the BBC is not living up to its stated values of trust, honesty and accountability. Salary disclosures the BBC was forced to make six months ago revealed not only unacceptably high pay for top presenters and managers but also an indefensible pay gap between men and women doing equal work. These revelations damaged the trust of BBC staff. For the first time, women saw hard evidence of what they’d long suspected, that they are not being valued equally.”

Ms Gracie claims that the corporation still denies that there is a problem about pay inequality. She labels this a “bunker mentality” that could result in a disastrous legal challenge against the BBC.

She explained that she had been “urged” to take the role of China editor, a job that “demanded sacrifices and resilience”.

“I would have to work 5000 miles from my teenage children, and in a heavily censored one-party state I would face surveillance, police harassment and official intimidation,” Ms Gracie wrote.

In July 2017, she discovered that of the four international editors at the BBC – two men and two women – the men were earning at least 50% more than the women. US editor Jon Sopel was named in the BBC list last year as earning between £200,000-£249,999 (Dh996,000-1.24million), while Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen earned £150,000-£199,999.

Neither Ms Gracie, nor Katya Adler, BBC Europe editor, was on the list, meaning that their salary was less than £150,000.

“My managers had yet again judged that women's work was worth much less than men's,” Ms Gracie wrote.

“I told my bosses the only acceptable resolution would be for all the international editors to be paid the same amount. The right amount would be for them to decide, and I made clear I wasn't seeking a pay rise, just equal pay. Instead the BBC offered me a big pay rise which remained far short of equality.

“It said there were differences between roles which justified the pay gap, but it has refused to explain these differences. Since turning down an unequal pay rise, I have been subjected to a dismayingly incompetent and undermining grievance process which still has no outcome,” said Ms Gracie.

The BBC responded on Sunday, saying that there was “no systemic discrimination against women”.