BBC Apologizes to Carrie Gracie, Former China Editor, Over Unequal Pay

Carrie Gracie, center, resigned from her post as China editor and moved back to the BBC’s London newsroom after publicly criticizing the broadcaster for its pay disparities between male and female staff.

LONDON — The BBC apologized on Friday to a senior female journalist who quit as the broadcaster’s China editor this year over unequal pay, and said it would give her backdated wages for the years in which she was underpaid.

The journalist, Carrie Gracie, resigned from the role in January and moved back to the BBC’s London newsroom, publicly criticizing the broadcaster for its pay disparities between male and female staff members. She said she had been promised pay equal to that of one of her male counterparts, but a public review of BBC salaries made clear she earned less.

[BBC executives defended their decision to pay Samira Ahmed, a TV host, less than a male colleague.]

Hers was among several high-profile disputes that have emerged since the BBC revealed the salary bands of its highest-paid employees, an exercise that revealed big disparities between the wages of senior men and women. The review came amid a reckoning in Britain over gender pay gaps more broadly. A government requirement that large companies publish their official wage disparities has shown the vast majority of companies pay men more than women.

In a joint statement on Friday, the BBC and Ms. Gracie said they had agreed to “resolve their differences.” The broadcaster acknowledged that it had underpaid her, apologized and said it would provide her with backdated pay. Ms. Gracie donated the sum to the Fawcett Society, a British women’s rights charity, to set up a fund to offer legal advice to women on equal-pay claims.

The dispute between the BBC and Ms. Gracie, a longtime journalist with the broadcaster, stems from her time as China editor. When she took the role in 2013, she was told that she would be paid in line with the BBC’s North America editor, Jon Sopel. But data published by the broadcaster last summer showed they were paid significantly different amounts.

For the year that ended in March 2017, Mr. Sopel was paid between 200,000 and 249,999 pounds. Ms. Gracie made less than the £150,000 threshold required to make her salary public, and later said her salary was £135,000, or about $178,000.

Her resignation from the post of China editor drew attention to the pay gaps.

Several BBC journalists spoke out in her favor, the salaries of some of the broadcaster’s most prominent male journalists were cut, and at a parliamentary hearing on the matter, one lawmaker described the situation as a “horror show.”

“Today, at the BBC, I can say I am equal,” Ms. Gracie, reading prepared remarks, said on Friday.

“I would like women at workplaces up and down the country to say the same,” she added.

Ms. Gracie will now take six months of unpaid leave to focus on China and gender equality.

“When my case became news, women wrote to me from all over the country to recount horror stories about unequal pay and the difficulties they faced in trying to put it right,” Ms. Gracie said. “My own experience has taught me how lonely and challenging this can be.”

Other journalists applauded her on having raised awareness and recognition for the issue.

“I admire Carrie Gracie so much for her principled stand and applaud the dignity with which she has handled this situation,” wrote Clare Balding, a sports presenter.

“So proud of my inspiring, tenacious friend — and of the BBC for doing the right thing by her,” tweeted Martine Croxall, a BBC News presenter.

Victoria Fritz, another presenter, added: “Carrie Gracie brought the #equalpay debate into pubs and kitchens, parliament & boardrooms. She fights for us all. Women. Men. Anyone who feels powerless against forces greater than themselves.”

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