BBC Under Fire for Gender Pay Gap After Salaries Made Public

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The U.K. public broadcaster in its annual report had to detail, for the first time, which of its on-air talent made how much.

The BBC in its annual report for 2016-2017, published Wednesday, touted the success of its big dramas and other shows, but onscreen diversity caused most of the debate.

For the first time, the broadcaster disclosed the amounts paid to staff and talent of more than 150,000 pounds ($195,000) under a deal with the government, with much discussion focusing on a gender gap in top pay as the BBC said two-thirds of the top on-air earners were men.

Headlines were immediately generated over former Top Gear presenter and Radio Two DJ Chris Evans earning $2.9 million in 2016, almost five times more than the highest paid female, Strictly Come Dancing presenter Claudia Winkleman, who took home $600,000.

The U.K. public broadcaster, led by director general Tony Hall, highlighted that it "was an outstanding year on air with programs such as The Night Manager, Planet Earth II, Taboo, Happy Valley, My Life, Radio 2's 500 Words competition and the Black and British season."

Said Hall: “On gender and diversity, the BBC is more diverse than the broadcasting industry and the civil service. We have set the most stretching targets in the industry for on-air diversity and we've made progress, but we recognize there is more to do and we are pushing further and faster than any other broadcaster.

"At the moment, of the talent earning over £150,000, two thirds are men and one third are women," he acknowledged. "We've set a clear target for 2020: We want all our lead and presenting roles to be equally divided between men and women. And it's already having an impact. If you look at those on the list who we have hired or promoted in the last three years, 60 percent are women and nearly a fifth come from a [minority] background.

"Meeting our goal on this is going to have a profound impact not just on the BBC, but the whole media industry," he added. "It's going to change the market for talent in this country."

On the cost of talent, Hall said: "Of the 43,000 talent contracts with the BBC last year, less than a quarter of 1 percent were paid more than £150,000. The BBC produces some of the nation's most loved television and radio and the most trusted news, while operating in a competitive market with the likes of Sky, ITV, Netflix and Amazon. It is widely acknowledged that on the whole the BBC pays less than its competitors while delivering high-quality and award-winning content."

He continued: "We have significantly reduced the total bill spent on paying talent, down again this year by 2.5 percent. The bill for top talent is down 10 percent year on year, and down by a quarter over the last five years. The amount we pay the very highest earners has dropped by 40 percent across the same period. At the same time, there has been significant cost inflation across the industry, so that BBC has made savings in an environment where costs are significantly up."

Hall concluded: "However, the great majority of the public say that they want the BBC to try to have the best talent on its programs. 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. The public agree."

BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the public broadcaster, reported a full-year profit of 157.3 million pounds ($205 million), up 17.6 percent compared with 133.8 million pounds in the previous year and 138.6 million pounds in the year before that. Revenue rose 3 percent to 1.06 billion pounds ($1.38 billion).

"By concentrating our efforts around core areas of growth and being bold in our transformation ambition, BBC Worldwide has delivered another strong year of results," said Tim Davie, CEO of BBC Worldwide. "Ever-closer relationships with producers, driving excellent content, along with acute customer focus, creative deal-making and strategic partnerships, are together enabling us to navigate the rapid shifts in the markets where we operate."

He added: "We begin the new year facing a complex set of conditions. The outlook remains unpredictable, but demand so far has largely held up well overall. We are actively evolving our company to stay ahead of market developments. We have an exciting slate — including Blue Planet II, Top of the Lake 2 and McMafia — backed by strong relationships with producers and customers alike. We believe these are robust reasons to give our shareholder, partners and stakeholders confidence in our future prospects."

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