One of the BBC’s top earning radio presenters is facing an angry backlash after he appeared to mock its on-going gender pay row.
John Humphrys, who presents Radio 4’s flagship Today programme, was forced to defend himself after a leaked tape recording emerged of the comments made off-air.
The veteran broadcaster appeared to make light of Carrie Gracie’s pay dispute hours after she resigned as China editor and shortly before jointly presenting Monday’s show with her.
He was chatting off-air with the BBC’s North America editor, Jon Sopel, when he teased him about his involvement in the story, asking: ‘How much of your salary are you prepared to hand over to Carrie Gracie to keep her?’
He was chatting off-air with the BBC’s North America editor, Jon Sopel, when he teased him about his involvement in the story
Miss Gracie, who earned £135,000 a year, quit in protest at widespread ‘pay discrimination’ – turning down a £45,000 raise – and has moved to another role in the newsroom
Humphrys admitted he took a pay cut shortly after the BBC rich list revealed he made up to £650,000 a year.
Referring to these cuts, the 74-year-old claimed to have ‘handed over already more than you f—ing earn’.
‘But I’m still left with more than anybody else and that seems to me entirely just.’
Mr Sopel appeared to attempt to distance himself from the subject, replying: ‘Don’t’.
But Humphrys continued: ‘Oh dear God she’s actually suggested you should lose money. You know that don’t you?’
A source said that a number of women were ‘shocked and disappointed’ with Humphrys and that management were ‘deeply unimpressed’ with the comments.
Miss Gracie, who earned £135,000 a year, quit in protest at widespread ‘pay discrimination’ – turning down a £45,000 raise – and has moved to another role in the newsroom.
She accused the BBC of a ‘secretive and illegal’ pay culture and said she ‘no longer trusts bosses to give me an accurate answer’. She said she had warned director-general Lord Hall last August that she would resign if the broadcaster did not pay men and women the same for the same jobs.
Miss Gracie (pictured) had accused the BBC of a ‘secretive and illegal’ pay culture and said she ‘no longer trusts bosses to give me an accurate answer’
A source said that a number of women were ‘shocked and disappointed’ with Humphrys and that management were ‘deeply unimpressed’ with the comments
The 55-year-old was furious that Mr Sopel was paid up to £250,000 and Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen up to £200,000. Miss Adler – the fourth international editor – earned less than £150,000 before her pay rise.
She resigned as the China editor after she found out that her male colleagues in similar roles were paid considerably more.
The BBC are believed to have offered the broadcaster a pay rise on top of her £135,000 salary after she complained when she discovered Jeremy Bowen, the Middle East editor, was earning up to £199,000 and Jon Sopel was being paid up to £249,000.
Last night The Times newspaper released a transcript of the conversation, which reportedly had a light-hearted tone.
Humphrys told the newspaper that his comments were not intended as a criticism of Gracie or the drive for equality.
‘This was what I thought was an exchange between two old friends who have known each other for 30 years and were taking the mickey out of each other,’ he said.
‘It was nothing to do with Carrie’s campaign.’
A number of staff said they felt disappointed after the clip was circulated around the BBC newsroom, with some women reportedly claiming that his comments exposed an attitude at the corporation that failed to take equality seriously.
BBC spokesperson: ‘This was an ill-advised off air conversation which the presenter regrets.
‘The BBC is committed to getting its pay structures right and, as we have said, we are conducting a comprehensive analysis of presenter pay.
‘PwC are working with us on this to ensure an objective external assessment of how we have set pay in the past, what we need to do differently going forward, and what further action we need to take immediately. We will publish that in the coming weeks.’
The offending exchange
John Humphrys: The first question will be how much of your salary you are prepared to hand over to Carrie Gracie to keep her. And comments about your other colleagues, like our Middle East editor and the other men who are earning too much.
Jon Sopel: Obviously if we are talking about the scope for the greatest redistribution, I’ll have to come back and say, “Well yes Mr Humphrys, but. . .”
John Humphrys And I could save you the trouble as I could volunteer that I’ve handed over already more than you f***ing earn. But I’m still left with more than anybody else, and that seems to me entirely just. Something like that.
Jon Sopel: Don’t.
John Humphrys: Oh dear God she’s actually suggested you should lose money. You know that don’t you?
Jon Sopel: Yeah I have, yeah.
John Humphrys: The idea is I’m not allowed to talk to her about it throughout the whole course of the programme. Not a word.
Jon Sopel: Can we have this conversation somewhere else?