Friday, January 10, 2020

Light reading

The 40-page judgement on Samira Ahmed v The BBC, from Judge Harjit Grewal, paints the picture of a shambolic organisation, when it comes to fees - and be straight about them. 

Here's some unpleasant bits: 

"The Respondent (The BBC) has said ..many times that Points of View was an entertainment programme. We understood it to mean by that, that it was in the Entertainment genre, rather than it was meant to be funny. The Respondent has certain distinct genres of programmes - News, Factual and Entertainment being three of them. Points of View was not in the Entertainment genre, it was in the Factual Genre..... The difference in genre between News and Factual in this case had no impact on the work the presenters did, which was virtually the same".

"What the audience figures show is that between 2012 and 2018, 1.5m watched Newswatch every week, and a little more or less than 1m watched Points of View. It has no bearing on the issue of whether The Claimant's (Samira Ahmed) work was the same or broadly similar to that of Mr Vine on Points of View".

"In this case the levels of pay were effectively determined and set when The Claimant and Jeremy Vine were appointed to present their respective programmes. ...We have not heard evidence from anyone who was involved in those decisions and negotiations.... The BBC found itself in difficulties in this case because it did not (and, to an extent, still does not) have a transparent and consistent process for evaluating and determining pay for its on-air talent".

"Nor has The Respondent (The BBC) called any of the witnesses who dealt with later contracts for Points of View or expressed views on what Mr Vine was paid, such as Andrea Coles, Emma Trevelyan and Paul Luke".

The BBC argued that the profile of the two programmes was quite different, but Judge Grewal notes "There was no evidence before us that those who made the decision to pay Jeremy Vine £3,000 [per show] in 2008 and those who made the decision to pay The Claimant (Samira Ahmed) £440 [per show] took any of these matters into account or that they based their decisions on these matters".

"If the genre of the programmes had been taken into account, it would have shown that Newswatch was in the News genre and Points of View in Factual. There was no evidence before us that presenters working in Factual were paid more than those working in News. There was evidence that some of the highest paid in the 2017 high earners list were working in News".

"There was no evidence before us that presenters of more established programmes were paid more than those who presented new programmes".

"The Respondent (The BBC) has failed to prove that the difference in pay was caused by a difference in the profile of the two programmes".

On the relative profiles of the two presenters: "Those who made the decision to pay Mr Vine in 2008 could not taken account of any of the audience recognition evidence upon which The Respondent relies for the obvious reason that it post-dates their decision."

"There was no evidence before us that The Claimant's (Samira Ahmed) public profile was taken into account by Barney Jones or anyone else in deciding to pay her £440."

On market rates: "The Respondent (The BBC) has to prove that those who made the decision to pay Mr Vine £3,000 came to the conclusion that that was the market rate payable for him, what they meant by that or how they assessed it. There was no evidence before us that market rate was a factor they considered"

"By the time Points of View approached Mr Vine, he had already signed a deal to work exclusively for the BBC for the next three years.  He did not have the option to work for anyone else. It cannot, therefore, be said that he was paid that rate to stop him going elsewhere or to retain him".

"It is clear from comments made by a variety of individuals after 2008 that the rate of £3,000 was seen as being high".

The Judge sets aside a special paragraph for Head of News Output, Gavin Allen, going through what it calls "a charade of a consultation" with Samira about her salary level in April 2018, when it had already been set  by the Senior Management Remuneration Committee the previous month. It notes an unnamed HR Director told an internal grievance panel that Samira had been 'mapped' to Senior Lead Presenter,' when Samir had been told she was 'mapped' just to Lead Presenter.

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