ITV Boss Talks Gender Issues, Calls Netflix a "Frenemy"

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ITV executive chairman Peter Bazalgette

"We take gender issues, in employment and pay, very, very seriously as a company," says executive chairman Peter Bazalgette amid the debate about the gender pay gap at the BBC.

U.K. TV giant ITV on Wednesday discussed its commitment to diversity and gender issues amid a recent debate about the gender pay gap at British public broadcaster BBC.

Asked about the pay controversy on an earnings call with reporters, ITV executive chairman Peter Bazalgette said that 52 percent of ITV's overall workforce and 43 percent of its senior management team were female. He said the company didn't break out on-air talent splits.

"We take gender issues, in employment and pay, very, very seriously as a company," Bazalgette said. "We are supporters of and subscribers to Project Diamond, which is part of the creative diversity network in the television industry where we are working very hard to monitor and improve diversity in all productions — both in front of the camera and behind the camera."

When asked if ITV would disclose the pay of top talent, he also highlighted that disclosure standards for the BBC are stricter. "We are a commercial company, we are a commercial broadcaster," Bazalgette emphasized. "The BBC is funded with public money and has a different way of answering to its funders and having to account for itself. We would never discuss confidential contracts for anyone working at ITV."

He said the company would next April publish, as required, gender pay gap numbers, which, he said, would show year-over-year improvement. 

The BBC disclosed data earlier this month that showed that male BBC TV and radio personalities make substantially more than their female counterparts. The publicly funded BBC was forced to publish the salary ranges of its best-paid actors and hosts for the first time.

Some of the BBC's most prominent female journalists and TV presenters have banded together to demand that the broadcaster fix the gap immediately rather than in several years as management has proposed. The BBC responded by saying that it has made "significant changes" in recent years but needs to do more to close the pay gap.

Bazalgette was on Wednesday's call also asked about ITV's relationship with streaming video giants Netflix and Amazon. "Netflix is definitely in the category of frenemy," he said, highlighting that the companies compete for people's time and attention, while ITV also makes content for Netflix, which continues to look for original fare, and sells it library shows. "We welcome Netflix in the marketplace," he concluded.

Asked about Netflix's recent news that it has crossed the milestone of 100 million global subscribers, Bazalgette also said that ITV's channels have a U.K. share of TV viewing of about 21 percent, while "Netflix, if it was a channel, in the U.K. would have a 4 percent share." He concluded: "So it's doing very well, but it's got the share of one of the healthier digital channels."

YouTube's recent ad issues also were discussed on the ITV call. Some advertisers have limited or suspended their U.K. digital ad spending after recent reports that ads have appeared on hate sites and next to videos on Google's YouTube from supporters of Islamic terrorists and other extremist groups. ITV COO and finance chief Ian Griffiths said that has not meant any real ad benefit for ITV, but he said it has helped TV companies highlight the advantages of TV. Griffiths said that "TV remains an incredibly powerful medium” with a scaled audience, which has an established ratings system. 

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