Samira Ahmed exposes larger range issues on the BBC than a single gender pay dispute

The decision is in.
Samira Ahmed has received her equal pay tribunal in opposition to the BBC.
The case has made world headlines. However for those who look extra intently on the points and the decision this was not only a tribunal a few one in every of case of gender pay discrimination. It brings into query a elementary enterprise follow of the BBC that will disproportionately drawback girls, Black Asian and Ethnic Minorities (BAME) and other people from deprived teams basically. 
Let me clarify why this case exposes a structural downside on the BBC and has far reaching penalties for range within the media. 


The employment tribunal agreed with Samira Ahmed that the viewers suggestions programme she presents, “Newswatch”, is analogous sufficient to a different programme, “Factors of View“, that she must be paid the identical because the white male presenter.
Samira Ahmed was paid £440 per programme whereas the presenter of “Factors of View”, Jeremy Vine, was paid £3,000 per programme.
The unanimous judgement of the tribunal was “her work was like that completed by Vine, and the BBC had did not show the pay hole wasn’t due to intercourse discrimination.” 
Regardless of the judgement the BBC appears unrepentant, and successfully stated that the tribunal had made a mistake issuing an announcement saying the pay for Ahmed and Vine “was not decided by their gender”, including “we weren’t in a position to name individuals who made selections way back to 2008 (when Jeremy Vine’s wage was determined) and have lengthy since left the BBC.” Inferring that if that they had been in a position to name these witnesses the tribunal would have discovered of their favour.
I used to be additionally contacted by two BBC executives (private mates) who thought the tribunal had come to the mistaken conclusion.
On the similar time, the tone of the overwhelming majority of mainstream media and social media appeared to be sympathetic to Ahmed and significant of the BBC. And enormous elements of the BBC’s personal workforce, girls and BAMEs specifically, have come out in help of the tribunal’s resolution.
So how have we reached the place that the BBC can successfully be discovered responsible of gender pay discrimination and appear unapologetic for underpaying a lady for a job?
Is the company rammed filled with bigoted sexist pigs?
Having labored there for 24 years – the final eight as a senior government – and being outdoors of the organisation for an extra 4 years now, my reply is “no”. 
However in some ways the reality is even worse. 


The very fact is the BBC is stuffed with good liberal people who find themselves working in a tradition and beneath a peculiar set of circumstances that causes them to make horrible selections and discriminate in opposition to under-represented teams regardless of the very best of intentions. 
And right here is the scary half…I think nearly each government producer has made the identical selections that would result in the identical pay discrimination outcome – myself included.
Let me clarify how and why.
The BBC is beneath monetary stress. Following the monetary disaster of 2008 and austerity insurance policies applied by the Conservative-Libdem authorities thereafter, the BBC’s license payment was frozen between 2010 and 2017. Regardless of small will increase since 2017 in actual phrases the BBC’s income has gone down dramatically. 
It’s in opposition to this backdrop that executives are at all times trying to make their cash go additional.
A technique to do this is to chop everybody’s salaries, particularly of the best earners. However that’s arduous. 
So one other option to generate income go additional is to take cheaper programmes made by one a part of the company and play them in elements of the community which are usually costlier.
This occurred usually once I was the pinnacle of present affairs programmes at BBC Scotland. Cheaper BBC Scotland programmes initially commissioned for a regional (Scottish) viewers can be “recommissioned” and typically even “reversioned” to play on the (nationwide) BBC1 community. And it nonetheless occurs now. Cheaper daytime programmes typically migrate to primetime, or BBC4 programmes migrate to BBC1 or BBC2. 
When this occurs executives overseeing the costlier slots are blissful as they’ve discovered an affordable different to assist them stretch their budgets. And the regional / daytime / BBC4 manufacturing groups are blissful as they now get a bigger viewers and extra publicity.
Everyone seems to be a winner. Or so it appears…


The administration follow of shifting programmes round may be good for enterprise however for those who take a step again there’s normally one set of losers – the employees.
And particularly, the employees who make the cheaper programmes. Regardless of the very fact they at the moment are making programmes that are deemed worthy to fill extra prestigious and dear slots, they not often see an uplift of their salaries. They are getting paid much less than their colleagues who had been successfully doing the identical sort of programmes and filling the identical slots as earlier than. 
However it’s so ingrained within the company’s tradition that the BBC didn’t – and judging by their public assertion clearly nonetheless don’t – see it as discrimination.
It’s simply how senior administration makes cash go additional.


And so this brings us to the Samira Ahmed case, and importantly, how this ingrained follow turns into discriminatory.
The BBC took a traditionally low cost programme, Newswatch, made for part of the BBC the place programmes are comparatively low cost, the Information Channel, and moved it into the BBC1 schedule the place programmes value extra. And the minute they moved it to BBC1 the comparability to Factors of View quickly grew to become apparent, which is made by part of the company with increased wages, the Leisure division.

You could possibly say it was an ideal storm, however for those who look across the BBC you see these “excellent storms” on a regular basis. 

At first I’m certain the choice to maneuver Newswatch appeared like a win-win. It eased the monetary stress off BBC1 budgets and for the workforce engaged on it impulsively they acquired terrestrial community publicity. Plus within the inside market that operates inside the BBC some cash may need even flowed from BBC1 to the Information Channel easing the Information Channels budgets (though I’m solely guessing at this final level). 
It’s in fact a win-win till somebody factors out the very fact it’s constructed on the unfair therapy of some employees being paid much less for doing the identical jobs as their colleagues had been doing beforehand.


Now, some individuals would possibly level out that this has nothing to do with gender, racism or discrimination. A white man may very well be engaged on the cheaper programme which replaces the costlier programme.
That could be very true.
However it’s also a undeniable fact that cheaper programmes are disproportionately made by manufacturing groups out of London and elements of the BBC the place there are extra girls and BAME individuals working.
Only one fast instance, over 20% of BBC1’s daytime cleaning soap opera Docs programmes are made by BAME administrators, whereas only one% of Eastenders programmes are directed by BAME administrators. Docs is considerably cheaper than Eastenders to provide. If the company ever did the identical money-saving trick with Docs and moved it to primetime it might disproportionately have an effect on BAME employees.
Equally, most individuals I’ve spoken to don’t assume it’s a coincidence that an Asian girls will get to current “Newswatch” whereas there has by no means been a non-white on-screen presenter of “Factors of View” in its 58-year historical past. 


So what does this all imply for the BBC?
Initially, because of this it is a structural downside quite than a easy one-off case of gender discrimination.
Second, it implies that fixing the issue may need far bigger penalties than the BBC has realised. It could require new and troublesome conversations round different choices for reaching worth for cash – akin to reducing the most costly salaries, which have traditionally been held by white males.
Third, if the BBC needs to proceed its follow of shifting programmes across the schedule, it means everyone’s salaries when these strikes occur.
And final however not least, it means the BBC’s assertion issued following the tribunal’s resolution hit fully the mistaken tone. As an alternative of of being defiant it ought to have stated one thing like:
We remorse that we underpaid Samira Ahmed for a number of years and totally tackle board the entire tribunals feedback.

The tribunal has dropped at mild how BBC administration selections, whereas not deliberately discriminatory, might disproportionately have an effect on sure members of employees. 

We’ll take a look at this case once more with the utmost urgency to make sure that these issues aren’t repeated.

Samira Ahmed is one in every of our most valued journalists and presenters and we look ahead to her working with us for years to come back and persevering with to provide fantastic content material”.

The BBC has many issues. No organisation is ideal.
And as somebody who labored there for years I would like it to flourish.
One of the simplest ways it might probably begin doing that’s by critically inspecting the state of affairs it’s in and the way it can rectify its shortcomings. Being defensive and denying the fact of discrimination, nonetheless unintentional, just isn’t how this downside will likely be solved.