Carrie Gracie’s crusade for what she regards as equal treatment by the BBC has reached its inevitable conclusion: already cowed, the self-flagellating Beeb has made a public apology and awarded her back pay reported to be as much as £280,000, this being equivalent to around 1,800 compulsory licence fees. Cue great rejoicing from what Gracie hails as the ‘mighty BBC sisterhood’,
So many kind messages today. Thank you! But I only got there thanks to a mighty #bbc sisterhood, a brilliant lawyer and my union @NUJofficial. Many women have to fight alone. Keen to help @fawcettsociety and @YESSlaw support more women on #equalpay. https://t.co/FLhcBm8a3Y
— Carrie Gracie (@BBCCarrie) June 29, 2018
although the celebrations are likely to be more muted amongst the millions of less advantaged women who each year struggle to finance their contributions to the, ahem, ‘unique way in which the BBC is funded’.
‘I’m home,’ tweeted Carrie Gracie in thanks to her supporters.
Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me on this long hard road. I'm home. https://t.co/iY2AIaGPqP
— Carrie Gracie (@BBCCarrie) June 29, 2018
Home? For the past six months it seems she has never been away, having become far more widely known for the recent dispute than for any of her broadcasting during 30 years at the BBC. Indeed, for those who live and work outside the cloistered Corporation it remains bewildering that having turned down an offered increase of £45,000 and quit her position as China Editor, Gracie was allowed to return to the London newsroom in some unspecified capacity. Despite voluntarily surrendering seniority and relinquishing responsibility, somehow the hashtag pay martyr remained employed while seemingly doing little except publicly decry her employer in print, on air – astonishingly being guest host on Radio 4’s Today programme at a time when she was a dominant story – and even to a parliamentary committee.
Carrie Gracie’s beef was that her North American counterpart Jon Sopel – who became an international editor after Gracie had been hired for China – was, at the time of her resignation, earning ‘at least 50 per cent more’ than her £135,000. In fact, as the head of BBC news Fran Unsworth told the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) committee: ‘At the time we set Carrie’s pay [when she became China Editor in 2013], in that role there was no issue around gender at all . . . [her pay] was still more than either the North American or the Europe Editor were on. Subsequently what happened . . . Jon Sopel came with a different pay history . . . and we did not cut his pay going to North America, we felt he was the right person for the role.’
Whatever one’s opinion of the Beeb’s principal Trump-traducer, throughout his career Sopel has by any objective measure been much the more prominent broadcaster, including the period when each was an international editor; Gracie, though seemingly believes she deserved equal pay for what patently was unequal work. Writing in the Sunday Times on July 1 that ‘even now I am not sure Gracie deserved the same pay as the other reporters’, Camilla Long trenchantly made the following comparison: ‘You’ve never actually seen Gracie on television, don’t even know who she is, couldn’t pick her out of a police line-up . . . Gracie never seems to have got a single memorable scoop, certainly not enough to provide a supply of stories to rival Sopel, who is outside the White House most days. Nor even to rival [Jeremy] Bowen, who [in the Middle East] is so terrified of getting blown up that he can’t afford to relax into gorgeous long-form dispatches about far-flung places as Gracie does — in films that no one sees or cares about or remembers.’
Ouch. Carrie Gracie has now taken a six-month sabbatical; however, such has been her non-role during recent months of employment that viewers and listeners will struggle to notice the difference. Having scooped a further shedload of licence payers’ cash, Gracie is to capitalise on having beaten up the Beeb by taking unpaid leave for ‘writing and speaking engagements about both China and gender equality’. It is difficult to imagine an organisation other than the BBC cravenly permitting a triumphalist employee to swank in this way.
Furthermore, Carrie has further polished her halo amongst her ‘mighty BBC sisterhood’ by announcing that she is giving her back-dated pay bonanza ‘to help women who need it more than I do’ – which might have been laudable were the sole beneficiary not the avowedly feminist Fawcett Society. According to the society’s website, ‘many of the issues we campaign about would have been familiar to suffrage activists of the past’ – a highly dubious claim given that this politically correct pressure group is driven largely by the contemporary concerns of privileged metropolitan women who have been bestowed with sharp elbows, are brimming with entitlement and yet continually find grievance.
Those TV licence fees now being used to assuage the indignation of Carrie Gracie are therefore being redirected to her spiritual home.