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 she was the source of the leak.
To make clear, I did not give The Sun or Times the John Humphrys Jon Sopel exchange, but I am glad it’s being brought to public attention. #BBCwomen
I have heard the recording and it is base – and beneath what the public would expect to hear from John Humphrys. Winifred Robinson was stood down for tweeting support for @BBCCarrie I expect the same will now happen with Mr Humphrys.
January 11, 2018
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.”