British television presenter Samira Ahmed has won her landmark equal pay battle with the BBC.
In a unanimous judgment published on Friday, an employment tribunal in London ruled that under the 2010 equality act, Ahmed’s work was “like” that of male counterpart Jeremy Vine, who presented a similar show.
During a hearing late last year, Ahmed argued it was not fair that she received £440 ($576) for hosting an episode viewer feedback show Newswatch, while at the same time, Vine took home £3,000 ($4,000) for recording an installment of the similarly-themed Points Of View.
The BBC argued during the tribunal that Newswatch is a news show on the “relatively niche” BBC News channel, while Points Of View is an “extremely well-known” entertainment show with a lighter tone, hosted over the years by a long line of well-paid, household name presenters.
But the ruling said that the tonal differences in the shows did not mean that the presenters’ work was “not broadly similar.” It added that the discrepancy in ratings for both shows does not have “any bearing on whether the two presenters did the same work.”
The ruling is hugely embarrassing for the BBC and leaves it vulnerable to a slew of other equal pay legal battles. The broadcaster said in evidence to the tribunal that it has 70 unresolved equal pay disputes, although The Guardian reported this month that it has approached women about reaching settlements.
The case may set a new precedent over the way BBC pays its news and entertainment presenters, while also potentially having significant consequences for other broadcasters. For decades, TV hosts are remunerated based on their star power, but the Ahmed ruling suggests that presenters should be paid the same for doing similar work, regardless of their experience.
The tribunal ruling highlighted issues with the way the BBC sets pay. “The BBC found itself in difficulties in this case because it did not (and, to an extent, still does not) have a transparent and consistent process for evaluating and determining pay for its on-air talent,” it said.
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