UK lawmakers slam BBC for failure to fix gender pay gap

LONDON (AP) — The BBC has failed to live up to its duty to pay men and women the same for equal work, a committee of British lawmakers said Thursday, in a damning indictment of the publicly funded broadcaster after years of pay scandals.

Parliament’s media committee said in a report that BBC salaries were set by “an opaque system of discretionary decisions by individual managers.”

The BBC has been struggling to address the issue, which was highlighted when journalist Carrie Gracie quit her post as China editor in January to protest the company’s gender pay gap. The BBC later accepted it had underpaid her and agreed to donate back pay to a gender-equality charity.

In 2017, the broadcaster was forced to publish a list of employees earning 150,000 pounds ($194,000) or more a year. Two-thirds of those on the list were men.

The committee said the imbalance for 2017-18 remained “shocking,” with no women among the top 10 earners.

Conservative lawmaker Damian Collins, who heads the committee, said the BBC had “an even higher level of duty than others to advance equality of opportunity — but this it has failed to do.”

“The BBC must take urgent action now if it’s to restore its reputation on equal pay and win back the trust of staff,” he said.

The committee also branded the broadcaster a “disgrace” for pushing on-air staff to work as independent contractors through personal service companies, leaving some facing six-figure bills for unpaid taxes and others “cut adrift by losing out on maternity pay or sick pay.”

The committee said it was “unforgettable” to hear broadcaster Kirsty Lang recount how she kept working after being diagnosed with cancer because she was on such a contract.

The report said the BBC should pay compensation to those who had been “coerced” into setting up personal service companies.

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