Samira Ahmed says Jeremy Vine was ‘gifted’ show as she continues equal pay fight

By Emma Bowden, PA

Presenter Samira Ahmed has claimed Jeremy Vine was “gifted” his Radio 2 lunchtime show as she argues to receive nearly £700,000 from the BBC in an equal pay claim.

The Newswatch presenter is facing the corporation at an employment tribunal this week, questioning why she was paid less than what Vine earned while he was presenting Points Of View, a job she says is similar to her own.

The BBC disagrees that the work is comparable, and is arguing the claim should be dismissed because the show she presents is not as popular.

In relation to equal pay, Ahmed suggested she deserved to be paid more as her work requires more preparation time than Vine, including time in hair and make-up.

Journalist, writer and broadcaster Samira Ahmed (David Mirzoeff/PA)

Vine was paid £3,000 per episode for presenting the BBC One programme between 2008 and 2018, which the BBC’s legal team described as “extremely well-known” in their opening submissions.

In comparison, Ahmed was paid £440 per episode for Newswatch, an audience-led critique of BBC News coverage, which airs on what the corporation called “the relatively niche BBC News channel”.

Ahmed said she begun her equal pay complaint because she “could not understand how pay for me, a woman, could be so much lower than Jeremy Vine, a man, for presenting very similar programmes and doing very similar work”.

She said she is “one of a number of women” who have complained about equal pay at the broadcaster, and, while outlining what she believes to be discrimination against her as a woman in her written evidence, said was “struck” that Vine was chosen to host his weekday lunchtime programme.

“I was struck by how Jeremy was gifted the Radio 2 lunchtime show as a successor to Jimmy Young in 2003,” the written statement says.

“This was a controversial appointment at the time and led to many complaints.

“Prior to that he had been a news journalist with no experience or profile as an entertainment star.

“The BBC stuck by him and he was eventually cemented in the role.

“Women are not gifted these opportunities.”

The statement added: “It is likely that Jeremy Vine spends less time in make-up than I do.

“Women are more likely to be criticised for their appearance on air.”

Ahmed acknowledges that Vine is “better known” by viewers, particularly after 2015, when he appeared on Strictly Come Dancing, but refers to her recognition as a Channel 4 reporter when hired for Newswatch.

Ahmed’s total back pay claim is for £693,245 between November 2012 and February 2019 based on an average of 40 programmes a year across both channels.

The BBC’s legal team say that the claimant was paid the same as her predecessor Ray Snoddy, who they refer to as her pay comparator, as opposed to Vine.

Jeremy Vine (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

But Ahmed argues in her witness statement that she should have been paid more than Snoddy, claiming to be a “much more experienced broadcaster”.

As Newswatch 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.

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.

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.”

After the hearing was adjourned on Wednesday, a BBC spokesperson said: “The programme was not ‘gifted’ – a number of people tried out on the programme, including Jeremy, before a decision was made.”

The case at the Central London Employment Tribunal is expected to run until Tuesday.

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