Trust is broken at BBC over equal pay, Carrie Gracie tells MPs

Carrie Gracie has said in extraordinary evidence to MPs that the management of the BBC is incapable of resolving its gender pay crisis and needs external help.

The corporation’s former China editor eviscerated its bosses during a two-hour hearing with the digital, culture, media and sport select committee.

She accused the BBC of effectively lying to her by saying she would be paid the same as male peers, briefing against her to the media by claiming she worked part-time, and belittling women at the corporation to justify paying them less than men.

Gracie was called to appear in front of MPs after resigning as China editor earlier this month in protest at the BBC’s “secretive and illegal” pay culture and not being paid the same as the North American and Middle Eastern editors, despite insisting on equal pay with other international editors before taking the China job.

The comments will ramp up the pressure on the BBC’s director general, Tony Hall, and the rest of its management about the equal pay row, which began last summer when the broadcaster revealed that two-thirds of its best paid on-air were men.

A report by accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) published on Tuesday concluded there was “no evidence” of gender bias in pay decisions at the BBC, but Gracie lambasted the findings and the BBC management reaction to the equal pay row.

Gracie, who was visibly upset during the hearing, claimed the PwC report would not have been accepted as a piece of journalism at the BBC.

“If we are not prepared to look at ourselves honestly how can we be trusted to look at anything else honestly?” she said.

She reserved specific criticism for Hall, saying it was “unacceptable” that he had opposed government demands for the BBC to publish how much it pays on-air presenters.

On his response to the publication of the pay list and the subsequent furore, she said: “I told him you have to show courage, you have to show leadership, you have to be brave on this issue. We are still waiting.”

Gracie also criticised James Harding and Fran Unsworth, the previous and current director of news at the BBC. She said a former BBC journalist had told her that at an alumni event last year, Unsworth had said Gracie worked part-time, and she criticised comments by Harding last year that the BBC did not have an equal pay problem.

Unsworth denied she said Gracie worked part-time but added that she has apologised to her “if my language was loose which led to some kind of misunderstanding”, while Hall said he condemned anyone who had briefed against the journalist.

Gracie called for the BBC to bring in independent arbitration to settle the wave of equal pay claims it faces, warning that it is “stumbling towards a Greek tragedy” in the shape of defeats in employment tribunals.



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