BBC pay is 'unacceptably high', Carrie Gracie says as female stars revolt over gender equality

Clare Balding, Naga Munchetty, Jane Garvey, Victoria Derbyshire and Sarah Montague all spoke of their support for their collegue

Carrie Gracie, who last night resigned from her post over equal pay, has said the broadcaster's top salaries are "unacceptably high".

Gracie, who was China Editor, revealed she turned down a £45k pay rise and suggested male journalists in equal roles to women should take a pay cut in order to close the gender wage gap.

She told BBC Woman's Hour: "I believe in public service broadcasting and I do think salaries at the top are unacceptably high both for presenters and stars of various kinds and also for managers.

"I didn't want more money, I wanted equality and this was not equality.

"There was still a big gap between myself and my male peers. This was an exercise in understanding how the BBC approached pay, and at the end of the exercise I felt the BBC was not approaching pay in an appropriate way."

The journalist also revealed that she had a six-month battle with the BBC, during which they did not make her pay equal to that of her male peers, who were earning significantly more. 

Carrie Gracie spoke of her frustration Credit:  Nick Moore / Alamy Stock Photo

She spoke of her struggle to be valued equally, telling the programme:  "For six months this has made me unhappy, it has been a huge job of work to try and put it right, to understand the law, I set about it like any other reporting task, I looked at employment tribunal outcomes, I spoke to colleagues male and female, I talked to my bosses, I talked to lawyers and at the end of all of that it is very hard to do the job of China Editor...which I do see as one of the most important and most difficult reporting jobs of our time.

"I chase around being surveilled the whole time, dealing with intimidation dealing with police harassment, I try and put everyone from yak herders to Communist Party officials on camera in a heavily censored one party state. I speak Chinese, I have a degree in Chinese, I have been reporting the story for nearly 30 years."

Senior BBC women have stepped up their revolt over equal pay in their company after the resignation of their respected colleague Carrie Gracie over the wage gap at the broadcaster.

Presenters including Victoria Derbyshire, Clare Balding, Jane Garvey and Sarah Montague tweeted the hashtag #IStandWithCarrie and co-wrote a letter claiming hundreds of women are in pay disputes with the BBC.

Gracie, who was China Editor, has described the reaction as "very moving" and said it speaks to the "depth of hunger" for fair pay for women everywhere. 

Presenting the Today programme, she said: "The things have struck me about it are the scale of feeling, not just from BBC women but across the country, does speak to the depth of hunger for an equal, fair and transparent pay system.

"What's lovely for me is that people are mentioning my China work.

"I do not want to be remembered forever as the woman who complained about money.

"Enough people are saying that [about China] that I know it won't get buried."

The BBC's impartiality rules meant that John Humphrys, her co-presenter, was not allowed to interview her about the letter she wrote. He said "presenters can't suddenly turn into interviewees on the programme they are presenting."

She responded after he asked her one question about the reaction, and was allowed to give a short response. She will be discussing the issue at greater length on Woman's Hour at 10am.

Mariella Frostrup discussed the issue on the Today Programme with John Humphrys as Carrie Gracie listened. She told the presenter: "I probably earn a tenth of what you do, John."

Her colleagues have criticised the BBC, saying its attitude to equal pay is "disappointing" and "an absolute disgrace" as the broadcaster continued to claim it was "performing considerably better than many."

BBC Women, a group of journalists in the company fighting for equal pay wrote in response to her resignation: "It is hugely regrettable that an outstanding and award-winning journalist like Carrie Gracie feels she has no option but to resign from her post as China Editor because the BBC has not valued her equally with her male counterparts.

"We wholeheartedly support her and call on the BBC to resolve her case and others without delay, and to urgently address pay inequality across the corporation.

"Up to 200 women that we know of in various pay grades and roles across the BBC have made pay complaints.

"The NUJ alone is involved in more than 120 of these cases."

Woman's Hour presenter Jane Garvey said on BBC Five Live: "I fear there may be more situations like the one we're in this morning."

Some men from the corporation showed their support, including Amol Rajan who said the situation was a "big, big headache" for the BBC.

Presenter Christian Fraser commented that "there are a number of awkward conversations ongoing between colleagues, and justifiable anger. Fair pay for same work. I would want it for my daughter. #IstandWithCarrie."

Political correspondent Chris Mason described Ms Gracie's missive as a "zinger of a letter" that was "brave, thoughtful, powerful, forensic, dignified".

Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said there was a "scourge of unequal pay" at the BBC. 

She said: "[The letter] makes it clear what a difficult decision it has been to speak out about what she calls a crisis of trust at the BBC, but why it is vital that the British public are clear about why she has been forced to resign her post."

Gracie resigned her post after discovering her male counterparts were earning significantly more than she was.

In the published list of earnings which came out last year it was revealed US editor Jon Sopel earned £200,000-£249,999, and Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen earned £150,000-£199,999.

Gracie was not on the list, which means was less than £150,000.

Emphasising that she was seeking parity rather than a pay rise, and that she is already well remunerated, Gracie said she had asked the BBC to ensure that all international editors were paid the same amount before being instead offered a higher salary which “remained far short of equality”.

The journalist wrote in an explosive letter of the BBC's "secretive and illegal" attitude towards equal pay.

She claimed the corporation is “breaking equality law” in its dealings with staff, and adopting a “bunker mentality” which is failing to address the significant pay gap.

Asked to respond to Gracie’s allegations, the BBC issued a statement saying: “Fairness in pay is vital.

“A significant number of organisations have now published their gender pay figures showing that we are performing considerably better than many and are well below the national average.

“Alongside that, we have already conducted a independent judge led audit of pay for rank and file staff which showed ‘no systemic discrimination against women’.

“A separate report for on air staff will be published in the not too distant future.”

Mother-of-two Gracie joined the World Service in 1987 as a trainee producer working around the world before becoming a correspondent in China in 1991.

Fluent in Mandarin, she returned to the UK in 1999 to present on the news channel and appeared on a host of flagship current affairs shows before she later returned to China as the region's editor.