Does it Matter that Chris Evans is Paid Vastly More than any BBC Woman?

In so far as the BBC can be said to have an opinion on sex (or “gender” as it illiterately calls it) equality, we can safely assume that it thinks it to be a jolly good thing. All its enormously well paid male current affairs presenters and reporters are, I am sure, convinced that any corporation which pays women less than it pays men for doing the same job is thoroughly evil. Does it follow, now we now that the highest paid BBC employees are nearly all men, that the BBC is hypocritical?

I am not sure it does.

Let us take Chris Evans. I had been vaguely aware of his existence before today’s figures were published. I am pretty confident I have never heard him perform, but I think I knew that he was popular with what one might call a low brow radio audience. His music show is on Radio 2, what we used, appropriately, to call the Light Programme. We are told that nine million people listen to him every day. It may very well be that, were he to desert the BBC and go to LBC or Capital Radio, he would take many of those listeners with him and his BBC replacement, whether male or female, would be left with a much smaller audience. The BBC is keen to keep the audience intact and so it pays Mr Evans a ludicrous salary in excess of £2M a year. It judges, and who am I to disagree, that he has a unique talent which generates a massive audience. In other words, his gigantic salary is not paid because of his sex. It is paid because of his popularity with housewives (or whoever it is who now listens to Radio 2). You may disagree with the BBC’s desperate desire to have larger audiences, whatever the cost, than any independent competitor, but I honestly don’t think you are on firm ground to claim that Mr Evans is only so highly paid because he is male.

It is a little more difficult to understand why John Humphrys should be paid such a lot more than any female presenter of the Today Programme (people who do precisely the same job as he does). But, again, I doubt whether the reason is that he is male and they are female. The BBC has almost certainly made the judgment that Humphrys is a great deal more “popular” with listeners to Today than are any of his colleagues, whether male or female. And that judgment may well be correct. I am in a better position to comment on Humphrys than I am to do so on Evans. I actually listen to the Today Programme and know many others who do the same. My impression is that Humphrys’s audience is roughly equally divided between those who love him (because he is so beastly to the people he interviews) and those who hate him (because he is so beastly to the people he interviews). Both groups, for quite different reasons, are addicted to listening to him. It doesn’t follow from that, of course, that the BBC is right to think Humphrys’s departure from Today would lead to a significant loss of listeners. My own guess is that Today is, so to speak, much bigger than Mr Humphrys. But I am pretty confident that the BBC’s decision to give him so much money was not related to his sex.

It is even more difficult to justify Huw Edwards’s excessive salary. He is a news reader. I am not one of those who claims that anyone could do that job well. It is not just a matter of being able to read an autocue. The reader must understand the stories he is reading. But, though not everyone could do it properly, an enormous number of people could and can. So, is Mr Edwards’s £500,000 plus salary paid just because he is a man? I doubt it. My guess is that this is another example of the BBC having fallen hook, line and sinker for the “celebrity culture”. Cleverly, Mr Edwards had made himself into a celebrity. The BBC therefore assumes that, unless it pays him a fortune, he may take himself off to ITV and bring with him millions of viewers who only watch BBC news because they adore Edwards. That is, of course, nonsense. But it doesn’t mean that Edwards’s grotesque salary is only paid because he is a man.

The figures we have been given today are for salaries paid to a tiny proportion of BBC performers. My guess is that, were we to be given figures for those paid, say, between £80,000 and £149,000 a year we would see a pretty well even spread between men and women. But I accept that is only a guess. If it is right, the BBC would clearly be well advised to publish the statistics (it doesn’t have to name the performers). Let’s wait and see.


6 thoughts on “Does it Matter that Chris Evans is Paid Vastly More than any BBC Woman?

  1. The thing is, Charles, that this business of equal salaries seems to be a rather iniquitous form of social engineering. Look at it in ten years time when Humphys is no more and then perhaps a woman will command the same sort of audience, and be appropriately rewarded.


  2. They are earning a jolly lot of money for often doing something once a week. What Charles has not alluded to, the sex v wage being the topic, is each one’s leanings. I think both sexes share something. Would these well paid people be slightly to the Left or even committed socialists? Charles your writing is always a pleasure.


  3. It all boils down to personal taste, Chris Evans and Jeremy Vile, are, in my opinion, not worth it. Nor is Claudia Winkelperson. I like Huw Edwards, J Humphrys whom I bumped into once in Belfast at the declaration of the ceasefire in 94 and Fiona Bruce. Cast of East Enders doing well, pass the jellied eels. No “ethnics” on the list one notes. White racism innit? Jah.


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