BBC "Determined to Lead the Way" on Closing Gender Pay Gap in U.K., Chairman Says

BBC Headquarters

BBC headquarters

David Clementi, in his first major public comments since taking on the role, also tells a Royal Television Society convention that he wants more protections for journalists from "increasingly explicit and aggressive" abuse.

The BBC is committed to closing the gender pay gap that has been making headlines and taking a leading role in Britain in this regard, chairman David Clementi said Wednesday. 

In his first major public comments since taking on the role about six months ago, he also told the Royal Television Society's Cambridge convention in a keynote appearance how the BBC can stay relevant and adjust to industry changes, such as the rise of streaming video giants and social media. 

Clementi highlighted that diversity remains a key focus for the U.K. public broadcaster and more needs to be done, even though it already is one of the most diverse workplaces in the country. 

"We are acutely aware that there is much more to do. Not least on gender," he said. "This has been much discussed in recent months, and will continue to be discussed as every U.K. organization with more than 250 staff prepares to disclose its gender pay gap before April 2018. We are confident that, when we publish our own gap in the next few weeks, we will prove to be significantly ahead of the national average. But we also know that the BBC should be the standard bearer, and we are determined to lead the way."

The exec later said that the BBC's pay gap is at around 10 percent, while the national average is estimated at around 18 percent.

Given the BBC's desire to play a lead role, director general Tony Hall "has committed to closing the gender pay gap and ensuring an equal split of men and women in all presenting and lead roles," Clementi highlighted.

Clementi said after his first six months as BBC chairman that he feels the public broadcaster is facing more intense competition for viewers' time and attention, but it still brings together the country for big news and events. He said the organization must work especially hard to attract younger and other more elusive audiences.

The BBC has in the digital age remained the most trusted source of news in Britain and around the world, the exec argued. And he condemned online abuse of BBC, and other, journalists, calling for the government to take steps to fight it. "Speaking to our journalists, I have become increasingly aware of the abuse that some of them — particularly female journalists — are subject to, on an almost daily basis," he said. "These days, there is much more abuse. It is increasingly explicit and aggressive. And much of it occurs online."

Added the BBC chair: "I welcome the work the government is doing to tackle this, and I’m following closely the efforts of Twitter and Facebook, amongst others, to clamp down on the perpetrators. I hope the social media platforms do even more. But some of it also occurs in plain sight, at press conferences and political gatherings on all sides. Politicians cannot stand by and watch — they must confront any abuse, and make it clear that it is intolerable. The journalists of the BBC, when abused simply for doing their job, should know they have the determined support of the board to stamp it out."

Clementi also said Wednesday that three-part sexual abuse drama Three Girls was a great example for the kind of high-quality and distinctive programs that the BBC should air.

Clementi, who drew up a report calling for the previous BBC Trust governing body to be abolished, which led to the creation of the role of chairman of a new unitary board that he is now filling, replaced BBC Trust chair Rona Fairhead.

Clementi is a former deputy governor of the Bank of England and chairman of Prudential and Virgin Money. The British government adopted the recommendations of his report on the BBC's governance setup and moved oversight of the BBC to media and telecom regulator Ofcom.