Four presenters begin legal action against BBC

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Left-right: Annita McVeigh, Martine Croxall, Karin Giannone and Kasia Madera arriving for the employment tribunal
By Noor Nanji
Culture reporter

Four presenters have begun legal action against the BBC on grounds of sex and age discrimination and equal pay.

Martine Croxall, Annita McVeigh, Karin Giannone and Kasia Madera are attending a two-day hearing for an employment tribunal against the corporation in central London.

They claim they lost their roles on the BBC News Channel following a “rigged” recruitment exercise.

The BBC insists its application process was “rigorous and fair”.

The corporation also denied the claims that the four women were paid less than an equivalent male peer.

In court documents, it said: “It is denied that [the BBC] has subjected [the presenters] to age or sex discrimination, harassment or victimisation, or has breached the sex equality clause.”

The two-day preliminary hearing, which started on Wednesday, is laying out the groundwork for a full tribunal against the corporation.

The four newsreaders have all been presenters on the BBC’s TV channels.

In July 2022, the BBC announced proposals to merge its domestic and international news channels.

The presenters claim that ahead of the announcement of the merger, the BBC’s Channels’ manager Jess Brammar privately assured four other chief presenters – two men and two younger women – their jobs were safe.

“We were put through a pre-determined job application process in February 2023,” the presenters said in court documents.

As a result, they said they were not recruited as chief presenters and were instead offered roles as correspondents, which was in effect a demotion and a reduction in pay.

‘Grinds you down’

The presenters called the recruitment process “a sham” exercise, “where our jobs were closed even though the redundancies were not genuine as the work still exists”.

All four presenters also allege they have not been paid equally compared with an equivalent male presenter since February 2020.

They have filed past equal pay claims, which they say is part of the reason the BBC treated them the way it did.

“The BBC grinds you down on pay,” Croxall told the hearing.

The BBC denied the pay complaints and said all candidates for the chief presenter role were subject to the same fair and objective application process, which involved an application interview then practical assessments.

It said at least five other applicants scored more highly than the four women in the recruitment exercise and were appointed, based on what it called an “objective assessment”.

Samira Ahmed dispute

The case comes four years after a high-profile equal pay dispute between the BBC and presenter Samira Ahmed.

In 2020, Ahmed won the employment tribunal she had brought against the corporation. She had claimed she was underpaid by £700,000 for hosting audience feedback show Newswatch, compared with Jeremy Vine’s salary for Points of View.

The BBC argued the two performed “very different roles”.

But the unanimous judgement said Ahmed’s work was like that done by Vine, and that the BBC had failed to prove the pay gap wasn’t because of sex discrimination.

In 2021, the BBC revealed it had spent more than £1m on legal fees to fight equal pay and race discrimination cases brought by staff.

10 January 202012 November 2020

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