Samira Ahmed pay row: BBC argues its own News Channel is 'niche'

BBC is arguing that Samira Ahmed's equal pay claim should be dismissed because the show she presents is not as popular as one fronted by Jeremy Vine.

Samira Ahmed (right). Picture: PA
Samira Ahmed (right). Picture: PA

The Newswatch presenter is facing the corporation at an employment tribunal this week, claiming that she was paid "a sixth" of what Vine earned while he was presenting Points Of View.

Ahmed is looking to receive nearly £700,000 in back pay by questioning why she was paid less than Vine for what she says is a similar job.

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But the BBC disagrees that the work is comparable.

It argues that Points Of View is an entertainment programme, while Newswatch is a news programme - requiring different skills and experience.

In opening submission, Rachel Crasnow QC, for the BBC, claimed that Newswatch requires a trained journalist, whereas Points Of View's presenter should be an audience's friend.

Vine was paid £3,000 per episode for presenting the BBC One programme between 2008 and 2018, which the corporation's legal team describes as "extremely well-known".

In comparison, Ahmed says she was paid £440 per episode for Newswatch - an audience-led critique of BBC News coverage - which airs on what the corporation's legal team calls "the relatively niche BBC News channel".

As the programme is repeated on BBC Breakfast on Saturday, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), which is supporting Ahmed's case, claim Newswatch has an audience reach of between 1.5 and 1.9 million people - more than double that of Points of View.

But the BBC's legal team claims it has "no discernible impact" on viewing figures and is used to fill out the programme at the weekend.

When broadcast on the BBC News channel it receives around 100,000 viewers, according to the broadcaster.

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The BBC's legal team also says that Ahmed was paid the same as her predecessor Ray Snoddy, who they refer to as her pay comparator, as opposed to Vine.

Vine fronted the long-running factual programme Points Of View until last year.

It has since dropped its presenter-led format, and the 15-minute show is now narrated by Tina Daheley.

Ahmed is due to give evidence at the Central London Employment Tribunal hearing on Wednesday.

She has received support from a number of fellow BBC presenters, including Radio 4's Jane Garvey and Richard Coles, who joined her as she walked into the building on Wednesday.

In a statement on Sunday evening, Ms Ahmed said: "I love my job on Newswatch despite it being difficult and challenging.

"On the back of my BBC ID card are written the BBC values which include 'we respect each other and celebrate our diversity' and 'we take pride in delivering quality and value for money'.

"I just ask why the BBC thinks I am worth only a sixth of the value of the work of a man for doing a very similar job."

The presenter previously secured an agreement with the BBC to receive full backdated pay with her male counterparts for her work on Radio 4's Front Row and Night Waves on Radio 3.

In a statement, a BBC spokesman said: "The BBC is committed to equal pay. Points Of View is an entertainment programme with a long history and is a household name with the public.

"Newswatch - while an important programme - isn't.

"Samira was paid the same as her male predecessor when she began presenting Newswatch.

"Gender has not been a factor in levels of pay for Points Of View. News and entertainment are very different markets and pay across the media industry reflects this."

A statement from BBC Women said: "We know that this is a case Samira did not want to bring.

"BBC managers had every opportunity to pay her equally for equal work in line with the law.

"We stand with Samira as she stands with so many of us facing similar battles."