Thursday, November 7, 2019

How funny

As we head to the last day of Samira Ahmed v The BBC, let's pick up on bits of the closing statement from BBC QC Rachel Crasnow, comparing the general showbiz sparkle of Jeremy Vine and Samira, and the requirements of Points Of View and Newswatch.

"The best evidence of what the respective jobs or presenting Newswatch and PoV involved is not her own evidence. Her own evidence suffers from two flaws: (i) it is exaggerated in various respects - for example, with regard to the element of humour required for the Newswatch role, with regard to her creative input into the programme, and with regard to the uniqueness of the demands made on her by the role; and (ii) it is made without any personal knowledge of what presenting PoV involves.

"Whatever she may have stated orally, humour is clearly not a central aspect of the Newswatch role and brief, any more than the BBC News may be said to be ''humorous'' because it has an ''and finally...'' sign off.

"James Mallett's evidence {he's the producer of Newswatch] on this was clear: ''the vast majority of the items we do are serious in nature'' and ''I listened to the discussion about 'glint in the eye' - in relation to PoV - it's not a phrase that I would use in relation to her''.

'"She appears to contend that she too has ''light entertainment'' skills, based on one-off appearances on programmes like ''celebrity'' version of Eggheads and University Challenge. Whether or not that is correct, it is irrelevant. It is the skills that the job requires, not the skills of the particular post holder, that are relevant to an assessment of ''like work''.

"Jeremy Vine is a very well known broadcaster, who had successfully made the transition from news to mainstream entertainment programming. His £3,000 fee for Points of View was agreed in a commercial negotiation, against a background where his predecessor Sir Terry Wogan had been paid £3,500 per episode of PoV and JV was greatly in demand and sought by the BBC's commercial rivals.

"The programme sat within a market for mainstream light entertainment, as opposed to news. Those markets operate very differently, and have done, 'from the days of Morecambe and Wise and before'.
Points of View has been presented by a wide variety of male and female high profile light entertainment stars over the last 23 years. Pay rates show no general disparity in favour of male presenters, but are obviously based to a significant extent on both (i) the state of the market at the time; and (ii) the profile of the presenter concerned.

"The pay for any on screen presenter of PoV has always been considerably in excess of the pay for any presenter of Newswatch in the same period whether male or female.

"Against all the material above, it is clear beyond any doubt that the reasons for setting JV's rate of £3,000 per episode for PoV were market-related reasons, to do with (i) his own profile and value to the BBC; and (ii) the market for PoV, taking into account the budget of the programme, the programme slot on BBC1, its prestige, and the rate paid to its previous presenters.

"The fact that those reasons are not explicitly recorded in the surviving contemporaneous emails about the negotiation which took place 11 years ago is neither here nor there.

"Her witness statement contended that Jeremy Vine was ''gifted the Radio 2 lunchtime show... women are not gifted these opportunities''.  But there is no evidence at all that this appointment had anything to do with Jeremy Vine's gender, and the list of his BBC appearances clearly indicates why he was considered to have the type of experience that the role required."

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