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BBC gender pay gap row highlights wider issue of disclosure, says the Beeb’s Jamie Angus

The BBC's Jamie Angus addressed the gender pay gap row currently facing the corporation. Photo: FCC/Sarah Graham The BBC’s Jamie Angus addressed the gender pay gap row currently facing the corporation. Photo: FCC/Sarah Graham

The gender pay gap at the BBC is “not something any of us in senior management at the BBC feel comfortable about”, according to Deputy Director of BBC World Service Group Jamie Angus.

The former Today show editor added that the corporation’s controversial salaries, revealed by the BBC last week on the orders of the British Government, were last year’s figures and said that when next year’s figures were published “the direction of travel will be clear”.

The question of the row over discrepancies in the pay of male and female on-air talent was the first to be posed to Angus, also Editorial Director of BBC Global News Ltd, after he threw the floor open to members and guests following a presentation on the BBC’s global viewing figures.

Angus, who was appearing at the FCC as part of the club’s Meet The Editor series, said the row had highlighted a much wider issue about pay disclosure, and that other employers would now be forced to look at their own salary structures.

When pressed further on whether veteran presenter John Humphrys, for example, should be paid more than other journalists, Angus agreed that salaries should based on merit and value to the audience. He added: “He’s a genuinely outstanding talent who the BBC is lucky to have and he should be paid a lot of money.” Angus said that the BBC should not pay full market rate salaries as it is a public service broadcaster but conceded that finding a pay scale that was fair to everyone would be a challenge.

In his presentation to members and guests, Angus had addressed the rise of the digital age and its effect on the BBC’s operations. He discussed the various forms of competition now faced by TV channels in live streaming services such as Netflix, and in turn their effect on advertising. He said services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu had disruptive, ad-free subscription models that were causing big structural challenges for the TV market.

Watch Jamie Angus discuss the BBC’s efforts to evolve in the digital age

In spite of the rise of digital, Angus said viewing figures showed that World Service reach was up while digital traffic was flat. BBC world news currently reaches 99 million people a week globally – a 12% rise in a year. He attributed this to two factors: owning a state-of-the-art TV screen complete with TV bundle was aspirational for the rising middle classes; and people who consumed their breaking news on social media were turning to trusted TV sources to verify their information.

The real challenge was generating revenue from advertising, particularly in an age where more and more viewers are turning to ad-free formats like Netflix. Angus said the BBC was “immensely lucky” to have 3bn a year in public service funding in the UK – the British TV licence fee – that “sits behind everything we do”.

As for the inevitable rise of digital platforms, Angus was upbeat about the future of TV for news broadcasters: “TV generates cultural moments that audiences can share together that digital fails to provide,” he said, citing world news events, sports, events drama and entertainment that entire households and workplaces will watch together. “The power of TV is with news providers for many years to come.”

FCCC statement on harassment of BBC journalists in Hunan province

The following is a statement issued by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China for its members.

FCCC statement on harassment of BBC journalists in Hunan province

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China condemns the harassment of and violence against a team of BBC journalists in Hunan province this week in an attempt to prevent them from reporting the story of a Chinese petitioner who was attempting to travel to Beijing to protest, ahead of the start of the National People’s Congress on Sunday.

Despite having the interviewee’s prior consent, BBC correspondent John Sudworth and his team were prevented from meeting her by a group of men who refused to identify themselves. The BBC journalists were assaulted and had their camera equipment broken.

Later, in the presence of uniformed police officers and government officials, the same men forced the BBC team to sign a written confession and apology, under the threat of further violence.

This violent effort to deter news coverage is a gross violation of Chinese government rules governing foreign correspondents, which expressly permit them to interview anybody who consents to be interviewed.

The FCCC is also alarmed that the BBC journalists were forced to sign a “confession” simply for carrying out their professional duties according to Chinese law.

The FCCC calls on the Chinese government and police to take steps to prevent foreign reporters who are legally allowed to work in China from being subjected to such violence and intimidation.

Journalists in China have reported increasing harassment by authorities. The 2016 FCCC survey of working conditions for correspondents, released last November, found increased use of force and manhandling by authorities against journalists performing their work. Some correspondents have also been called in to unspecified meetings with the State Security Bureau.

Fully 98% of the survey’s respondents said reporting conditions rarely meet international standards, while 29% said conditions had deteriorated.

Harassment, detention and questioning of sources remains worryingly common. 57% of correspondents said they personally had been subjected to some form of interference, harassment or violence while attempting to report in China.

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