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Explained: Why Samira Ahmed has dragged her employer BBC to court

Samira Ahmed has been presenting the BBC show ‘Newswatch’ since 2012, and in the past has worked on other projects with the broadcaster on both television and radio platforms.

Written by Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: October 29, 2019 7:54:32 pm
Explained: Why Samira Ahmed has dragged her employer BBC to court? The 51-year-old journalist Samira Ahmed has accused the BBC of paying her 85 per cent less than a male colleague, Jeremy Vine, host of the show ‘Points of View’.

On Monday, British television presenter Samira Ahmed dragged her employer, the BBC, to an employment court in London in a major gender pay gap case. The National Union of Journalists, a UK-based trade union, has come out in Ahmed’s support, as have important figures such as politician Baroness Sayeeda Warsi.

What are Samira Ahmed’s allegations?

Ahmed has been presenting the BBC show ‘Newswatch’ since 2012, and in the past has worked on other projects with the broadcaster on both television and radio platforms.

The 51-year-old journalist has accused the BBC of paying her 85 per cent less than a male colleague, Jeremy Vine, host of the show ‘Points of View’. According to the website of the National Union of Journalists, Vine was paid GBP 3000 (Rs 2.72 lakh) per episode of his show between 2008 and 2018. In January 2018, his fee was reduced to GBP 1300 (Rs 1.18 lakh) per episode, following which he left the show in July that year. Ahmed, since 2012, was paid GBP 440 (Rs 40,000) per episode, and the fee was increased in 2015 to GBP 465 (approx. Rs 42,000). The revised fee was again reduced later after the BBC signed employment contracts with presenters.

The general secretary of the NUJ has said: “The scourge of unequal pay has no place in our public service broadcaster and that’s why the NUJ is backing Samira’s case and many others. Unfortunately, despite Samira going through a lengthy and frustrating internal process in the hope that a sensible solution could be achieved, the BBC has not resolved this case and it will now be for the tribunal to determine whether this monumental pay gap is appropriate and defensible. Samira is to be congratulated for her persistence and determination to secure fair and equal treatment by her employer.”

What does Samira Ahmed want now?

Ahmed is now demanding back pay for her work on the BBC show under the country’s Equal Pay Act of 1970. An employment court in London will hear the case over the next seven days.

At the employment court, Ahmed will argue that both her show ‘Newswatch’ and Vine’s ‘Points of View’ are presenter-led programmes running around 15 minutes, and that both have a similar format in which viewers can express their views on the BBC’s content.

According to the NUJ, the BBC previously has agreed to pay Ahmed full backdated pay for her work on two other shows on two of the network’s radio stations, where there was a pay gap of 50 per cent and 33 per cent between Ahmed and her male equivalents.

What is BBC’s argument?

In this case, the BBC is arguing that Ahmed’s show is in the news segment, while Vine’s show is under entertainment, hence the different pay. The network has also said that Ahmed has been paid the same as the male predecessor on her show.

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