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John Humphrys Condemns ‘Nasty Person’ Who Leaked His Off-Air Conversation Joking About BBC Pay Gap

John Humphrys has hit out at the “nasty person” who leaked an off-air conversation he had joking about equal pay for women at the BBC, as he insisted it did not reflect his views.

Humphrys, the broadcaster’s highest paid news presenter, was recorded joking with colleague Jon Sopel about the issue off-air, after China editor Carrie Gracie had resigned over it.

The leaked transcript of the issue caused outrage, particularly as Humphrys was allowed to continue to broadcast when women who work at the BBC were barred from discussing the issue after expressing a view.

“Some nasty person decided that the world was entitled to hear it, and that one is not entitled to have private conversations,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

“This is not something that’s going to dominate my existence. As far as I’m concerned, it’s over and done with.”

ITV News doorstepped Humphrys at his home on Friday evening and he told them that he and Sopel were “winding each other up” during the conversation, which he called a “joke”.

He added it was a “jocular exchange” and called it “complete rubbish” to suggest he opposed equal pay.

“We are in the habit, Jon and I, of winding each other up and the purpose of this jokey – emphasise jokey – exchange was a bit of mutual mickey-taking and that is all it was,” he said.

“If people took a different message from it, it could only be because they didn’t appreciate that it was a joke.”

Humphrys, who earns between £600,000 and £649,999, was speaking to Sopel, who earns between £200,000 and £249,999, off-air at around 4am before Monday’s edition of the Today programme.

He talked Sopel through the Gracie resignation and said: “She’s actually suggested that you should lose money.”

He told Sopel: “I’ve handed over already more than you fucking earn but I’m still left with more than anybody else.”

The full transcript:  

HUMPHRYS:  “The first question will be how much of your salary you are prepared to hand over to Carrie Gracie to keep her and then a few comments about your other colleagues, like our Middle East Editor and the other men who are earning too much…”

SOPEL: “If we are talking about the scope for the greatest redistribution I’ll have to come back and say well, yes, Mr Humphrys, but…

HUMPHRYS: “And I could save you the trouble as I could volunteer I’ve handed over already more than you fucking earn but I’m still left with more than anybody else and that seems to me to be entirely just – something like that would do it?”

SOPEL: “Don’t…”

HUMPHRYS:  “Oh dear God. She’s actually suggested that you should lose money; you know that don’t you? You’ve read the thing properly have you?”

Humphrys’ continued presence on air came after bosses this week demanded those who have given support to the ‘#BBCWomen’ campaign to achieve equal pay stand down from reporting the topic.

That rule saw Gracie herself made to sit silently on Monday while Humphrys reported on her case.

Labour MP Stella Creasy told HuffPost UK that it was “unfair” some stars have been stopped from speaking while Humphrys continued to work.

She said: “This shows the BBC needs to ensure equal pay rather than using editorial guidelines to try to prevent presenters talking about this issue.

“It’s clear everyone has an opinion, so it is unfair to stop some speaking and not others.

“That some of those opinions appear rooted in the 19th century when it comes to why this matters only further underlines the importance of getting this right.”

Woman’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey, who, alongside colleague Winifred Robinson, has been banned from reporting on pay disparity, described the corporation as “the Department of Mixed Messages”.

Miriam O’Reilly, who denied being the person who leaked the Humphrys/Sopel exchange, told Channel 4 News Humphrys should be taken off air during gender pay discussions.

Channel 4 News reported the BBC knew about the exchange for several days before it was leaked and chose not to take Humphrys off air as they deemed it a private conversation,

A BBC source previously told HuffPost that management were “deeply unimpressed” by the exchange.

And a corporation spokesperson said on Thursday evening: “This was an ill-advised off air conversation which the presenter regrets. 

“The BBC is committed to getting its pay structures right and, as we have said, we are conducting a comprehensive analysis of presenter pay.

“PwC are working with us on this to ensure an objective external assessment of how we have set pay in the past, what we need to do differently going forward, and what further action we need to take immediately.

“We will publish that in the coming weeks.”

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The BBC Is Supposed To Educate People – It Should Start With Teaching John Humphrys About Equality

The leaked recording of John Humphrys talking to Jon Sopel tells you everything you need to know about how an organisation’s response to discrimination and inequality affects culture and behaviour. He is reported to have said, among other things, “Oh dear God. She’s actually suggested that you should lose money – you know that don’t you? You’ve read the thing properly have you?”

When Carrie Gracie brought her claim for equal pay, the BBC could have accepted responsibility, apologised to all the women on less money for equivalent work and committed to revising its pay structures and to future pay transparency.

Instead it denied her claim and censored other BBC women who spoke out by invoking impartiality rules. In other words: protect the boys’ club and hunker down until the storm blows over. In that kind of culture it is not at all surprising to hear Humphrys so at home with joking about both her and his own considerably bigger paycheck.

Of course, the BBC is not unusual in having a pay gap problem, nor a pay discrimination problem. The former measures the difference in average pay between men and women, and highlights both the tendency to have men in more senior roles on higher salaries and the need to recruit and promote more women to senior positions to achieve equal representation. The latter arises when companies pay men and women differently for doing the same – or equivalent – jobs, and breach the Equality Act.

The great sadness here is that the BBC is also not unusual in refusing to own up to discriminatory practices. This should have been a moment to put in place policies to ensure equality – putting women at the helm of news programmes as often as men, for example. There was an opportunity, as a supposed leader in equality and diversity, and as a public service broadcaster, to set the tone for achieving gender equality as other firms publish their pay gaps by April this year.

And because so many companies are refusing to own up to discrimination – even, like retailer Phase Eight, claiming the pay gap is the result of women choosing to do lower-paid jobs – the Women’s Equality Party is calling for the redesign of gender pay gap legislation in 2018 so that organisations like the BBC can no longer hide discriminatory practices.

We believe that firms reporting a pay gap above 5% should be required to release details of their hiring, promotion and parental leave policies and the salary bands of their male and female workers, both full and part-time. This transparency would flag where their work practices had implicit discrimination or bias, and encourage employees to take action. They should also break data down by metrics including race and disability, and retention rates after parental leave. And they must face fines if they release inaccurate or incomplete data – or refuse to do it altogether. 

Shame on the BBC for trying to pull the wool over our eyes. When it published the salaries of people earning over £150,000 in line with its charter, it exposed the huge disparity between its male and female, and its white and BAME talent. To then cynically conduct a pay audit minus all of those top earners and pat itself on the back for having a below-average pay gap of 9% is nothing less than a cover up.

Pay discrimination and pay gaps may be different measures of inequality but they both expose discrimination. By its own account, there is a lack of equality at every level of the BBC, from writers to producers to editors to presenters.  

The BBC can start to deal with this by revising its current understanding – as demonstrated by the imposition of its impartiality rule – that equal pay and women’s equality is some kind of opinion that some people might believe and others not. It’s hard to see it applying this rule to any other human rights issue, like freedom of expression, thought or assembly.

Censoring its own staff from speaking out about equality runs counter to the very service the BBC is supposed to provide – broadcasting accurate and impartial news and education for people of all ages. Humphrys is 75. Perhaps the BBC could start with him and demonstrate that it’s never too late to learn.

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BBC Bosses Furious As John Humphrys And Jon Sopel Mock BBC’s Gender Pay Gap After Carrie Gracie Quits

BBC presenters John Humphrys and Jon Sopel are facing a backlash after mocking the gender pay gap that has divided the broadcaster.

In unguarded comments while not on air, the Radio 4 Today show presenters are reportedly heard discussing the salary of Carrie Gracie, the BBC’s China Editor who quit the post after revealing she was being paid less than male colleagues doing the same job.

The conversation is said to have been recorded before Monday’s programme went to air, and Humphrys reportedly asks Sopel how much of his salary he would “hand over” to Gracie to keep her at the corporation.

The 74-year-old host then jokes that he’s “handed over more than you fucking earn”.

Humphrys told The Sun, who broke the story along with The Times, that it was “silly banter between old mates”. But BBC management have taken a tougher line, with a source at the corporation telling HuffPost UK bosses were “deeply unimpressed”.

According to The Sun, the conversation went:

HUMPHRYS:  “The first question will be how much of your salary you are prepared to hand over to Carrie Gracie to keep her and then a few comments about your other colleagues, like our Middle East Editor and the other men who are earning too much…”

SOPEL: “If we are talking about the scope for the greatest redistribution I’ll have to come back and say well, yes, Mr Humphrys, but…

HUMPHRYS: “And I could save you the trouble as I could volunteer I’ve handed over already more than you fucking earn but I’m still left with more than anybody else and that seems to me to be entirely just – something like that would do it?”

SOPEL “Don’t…”

HUMPHRYS:  “Oh dear God. She’s actually suggested that you should lose money; you know that don’t you? You’ve read the thing properly have you?”

The exchange was reportedly leaked by former Countryfile presenter Miriam O’Reilly, who was sidelined by the corporation over accusations of ageism. But she later denied this.

O’Reilly, 60, wrote on Twitter that she had been due to discuss the pay gap on Today, but her appearance was scrapped.

A BBC spokesperson said: “This was an ill-advised off air conversation which the presenter regrets. 

“The BBC is committed to getting its pay structures right and, as we have said, we are conducting a comprehensive analysis of presenter pay.

“PwC are working with us on this to ensure an objective external assessment of how we have set pay in the past, what we need to do differently going forward, and what further action we need to take immediately.

“We will publish that in the coming weeks.”

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