The BBC has been met with allegations of sexism from the left-wing commentariat and it’s own female employees after the Corporation admitted that two thirds of its top earners are men.
According to the Telegraph, ‘one well-known female presenter claimed that the corporation is stuffed with “male ‘intellectual titans’ with egos the size of planets” who have demanded huge salaries and got them.’ Labour’s Harriet Harman compounded this sentiment, opining that there is “clearly discrimination” at the BBC.
There are some very big problems with these allegations. For starters, an imbalance in pay between male and female staff – known more widely as the gender wage gap – is not proof of sexism. For UK employees under the age of 30, the wage gap is negative, meaning young women earn, on average, more than men. This statistic alone refutes discrimination as the wage gap’s driving factor.
The reason the disparity materialises among older workers is due to the different lifestyle choices that women go on to make. The Institute of Fiscal Studies has identified the pay gap as being “mainly due to the knock on effects of women reducing their hours or taking time out of work to have children.” They identify “a gradual rise in the gender wage gap in the twelve years after families have their first child.” The BBC, therefore, is no different to your average UK employer: it cannot prevent its female workers from prioritising their families over their careers.
Where the BBC does differ to the average UK employer, however, is in its brazen acceptance of third-wave feminist dogma and its rejection of meritocracy. The Beeb has its very own ‘diversity and inclusion’ strategy, which includes a 50% female workforce and leadership target by 2020. In addition, the organisation advertises on-air roles that are open exclusively to female applicants. Contrastingly, commercial enterprises – in line with their customers – do not care about something as arbitrary and inconsequential as gender: they just want whoever’s best for the job.
The problem the BBC faces is that it is not entirely immune to market forces. Despite being funded by a poll tax, it still has to compete with private media outlets to obtain its share of the audience. And ultimately, this is what determines its pay scale.
Chris Evans – the BBC’s highest earner – is on a salary of over £2.2million per annum. But, as the Corporation’s Director-General Lord Rose puts it, “[he] is presenting the most popular show on the most popular radio network in Europe. The BBC does not exist in a market on its own where it can set the market rates. If we are to give the public what they want, then we have to pay for those great presenters and stars.” In other words, Chris Evans is a big star who happens to be a man – and big stars command big salaries.
Still, there is a way to settle the issue once and for all: we convert the BBC into a subscription-based service. This will open it up to the mechanisms and scrutiny of the free market, allowing consumers of both genders to fully determine its rates of pay and business practices.
However, those seeking to unearth a culture of male chauvinism will be very disappointed indeed. There is no evidence to suggest that women face discrimination in the workplace at all, let alone in a ‘progressive’ workplace like the BBC. And, to be frank, It’s high time we all accepted this.