I posted one winner just an hour ago, so here is my second candidate. I watched the news on Friday night, and after that I had had to totally re-jig my nomination, although in the end I have decided to present both. It is just a pity that this story happened to coincide with Northern Ireland.
The BBC produces two similar programmes. One of them is called Newswatch, the other called Points of View. Both are basically viewer-feedback programmes (The way you covered such-and-such a story was really dumb, etc.), however Newswatch is far lower key than the primetime Points of View.
The BBC says that because of this difference, they pay the presenter of Points of View, a guy called Jeremy Vine, £3,000 per episode. That’s about USD 4,000. Not megabucks, but remember this is public service broadcasting.
They also decided to pay the presenter of Newswatch, a woman called Samira Ahmed, just (just!) £450 per episode. I’ll save you the math – one show paid more than six times more than the other.
When Ahmed found this out, she not surprisingly felt undervalued. The programmes were very similar, so therefore the skills required to present them were similar, surely? So, Ahmed took the BBC to an employment tribunal, where she argued that they were doing the same job, they should be paid the same.
Ahmed contested that she was paid less than Vine just on the basis of her gender.
The BBC, in response, argued that the higher profile of Vine’s show meant that it required a presenter with a touch of je ne sais quoi – star quality to pull in the punters. Vine had that, but Ahmed didn’t.
Auntie Beeb’s argument was unconvincing, as it happens, and Friday, the tribunal found in Ahmed’s favour – she is indeed doing the same job and should therefore be paid the same. This opens the door not only to an Ahmed claim for lost back-pay, which she claims is £700,000 (USD 900,000), but paves the way for many other claimants, not just presenters but behind-the-scenes jobs too. As I write, the BBC is considering an appeal, although I just heard a commentator (who may or may not have been biased) saying that the report was so damning, I wouldn’t bother.
And so as soon as I heard the news, I had a dilemma. My second choice this week is therefore Samira Ahmed. Not for the money, although it never hurts. Not for being granted equality, which she has a right to expect in any case. But for being the first. That took guts. I hope other people feel inspired to follow in this lady’s footsteps.
I suppose the only regrettable part of this story is that Vine’s name appears in it. Because he isn’t relevant – in fact, Vine has himself made gestures on the subject of equal pay. If that is what Vine commands for his work, then good luck to him – I can’t blame somebody for trying to provide as best they can for their family. An unfortunate coincidence.