The BBC has been making its own headlines this week, after being required to report the salaries of its staff and stars. The organization is the UK’s public broadcaster and, while it’s partly funded by its commercial interests, such as BBC Worldwide, it operates largely due to funds from UK television licence fees which are set by the government – and it’s therefore funded by public money. The report has generated a great deal of negative press, however, due to the blatant pay-gaps that are shown to exist in terms of both gender and ethnicity. This raises interesting questions, given that the BBC also made headlines this week by announcing that the new star of Doctor Who would be a woman.
According to the figures reported, the outgoing Doctor – Peter Capaldi – earned between £200,000, and £249,000 in his final year. The new Doctor – Jodie Whittaker – has not yet begun her TARDIS tenure, but the wider report leaves audiences wondering whether she’ll be paid a comparable amount that is also commensurate with her status as an established, experienced performer.
In terms of her Whovian predecessors, David Tennant reportedly earned the most, pulling in up to £1 million per season, while Matt Smith – who followed Tennant into the role – earned £600,000. The decrease between Smith and Capaldi is interesting, though, given that Smith – at the time – was relatively unknown, while Capaldi was already a household name (and an Academy Award winning filmmaker) when he joined the series.
But, elsewhere in the BBC, only two women make it into the top 10 list of BBC earners in terms of onscreen talent, and the top-earning male stars are earning an average of four times that of their female counterparts. Those lists of top earners are also dominated by white stars, with some BAME (Black Asian and Minority Ethnic) talent – such as Mishal Husain – earning half the average salary of many white male stars.
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The announcement of Jodie Whittaker as the new Doctor Who, just ahead of the release of this BBC salaries report, brings the implications of these figures into sharp relief. The broadcaster was quick to issue a pointed rebuttal to the expected sexist backlash against Whittaker across social media, while at the same time, perpetuating discrimination in hiring and salary determination.
In response to accusations of hypocrisy, BBC Director Lord Hall spoke to the Today show on BBC Radio 4, and promised change.
“By 2020 we will have equality between men and women on air, and we will also have the pay gap sorted by then too.”
The question is, why should we need to wait until 2020 – a further three years – to see equality practiced by a publicly funded broadcaster, given that this discussion has actually already been raging for a number of years? The cynical view would be that change is only now deemed necessary because the discrimination has been laid bare, and the issue can no longer be avoided. Hopefully, the embracing of a woman as the new lead on Doctor Who does indeed signal a shift in attitude from the BBC and, like that casting choice in particular, it comes not a moment too soon.
Source: Screen Rant