WE call on Ofcom to investigate whether broadcasters are meeting their equality obligations, in light of revelations about their pay.
Published 19 March 2018
The Women’s Equality Party has called on Ofcom to investigate whether public service broadcasters are meeting their obligations to promote equality of opportunity.
In a letter (HERE), Women’s Equality Party Leader Sophie Walker asks Ofcom CEO Sharon White to look into the gender pay gaps and allegations of pay discrimination at the BBC, ITN and Channel 4 - in accordance with its remit to promote equality.
Channel 4 reported its pay gap at 28.6% this week, with ITN at 19.6% and the BBC at 10.7%. The BBC has repeatedly insisted it has no problem of unequal pay – despite former China editor Carrie Gracie resigning in protest at earning far less than her male peers and a number of other women employees expressing concern.
Inequality off-screen has an inevitable impact on commissioning and on-air portrayals of women. If broadcasters do not value and pay their own staff equally, then the stories told on screen will not reflect women’s lives accurately.
Sophie Walker, Leader of the Women’s Equality Party, said:
“Our public service broadcasters are failing to meet their obligation to promote equality of opportunity. The BBC has a specific duty to set an example on diversity and equality – on and off screen. That it still ducks and deflects that responsibility in the face of recent action by women at the corporation is shameful.
“Rather than the broadcasters taking responsibility and making amends to the underpaid women, there has been a parade of unambitious targets, unconvincing obfuscation and a refusal to confront the ways in which hiring, promotion and childcare policies contribute to those pay gaps.
“Media companies have a special role in society because they help to shape public perceptions. If women are not treated equally off-screen, then there is little hope that women’s stories will be told properly on-screen.
“Ofcom should now investigate whether the broadcasters are meeting their obligation to ‘promote equality of opportunity’ while they pay women less than men.
“The BBC, ITN and Channel 4 have betrayed the trust of many of their staff and the public; it is time for the regulator to step in.”
Its agreement with the Government specifies that the BBC “must make arrangements for promoting… equality of opportunity between those who share a relevant protected characteristic and those who do not share it”.
Ofcom has itself said the BBC should “lead the way” in promoting diversity on and off screen.
Section 337 of the Communications Act requires broadcasters to "make arrangements for promoting... equality of opportunity between men and women; and between persons of different racial groups".