BBC accused of not calling key witnesses in Samira dispute

Journalist and broadcaster Samira Ahmed  (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)
Journalist and broadcaster Samira Ahmed (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)

THE BBC has been accused of not calling key witnesses who could provide a clearer picture of the pay difference between Jeremy Vine and Samira Ahmed.

Claire Darwin, representing Ahmed, said in her closing submissions that the BBC failed to call key witnesses, such as Emma Trevelyan, a senior commercial, rights and business affairs manager, and Paul Luke, the head of business affairs, and Natasha Wojciechowski, who was the BBC’s HR director until recently, reported the Guardian.

Darwin told the judge: “Cases are won on their facts … it’s extraordinary, madam, that the BBC has deliberately chosen not to call witnesses of fact in relation on the very narrow issue that you need to decide”.

Dismissing Darwin’s claim, Julian Milford, representing the BBC, said the judge had heard from Roger Leatham, now director of business affairs for BBC Studios, who negotiated the deal with Vine.

Ahmed approached the tribunal claiming she was paid much lesser than her male colleague Vine for doing similar work. While Vine got £3,000 per episode of Points of View between 2008 and 2018, Ahmed received £440 for Newswatch.

Ahmed is seeking almost £700,000 in back pay.

The tribunal lasted for nearly two weeks and Ahmed said she “could not understand how pay for me, a woman, could be so much lower than Jeremy Vine, a man, for presenting very similar programmes and doing very similar work”.

She also said that her work requires more preparation time. “It is likely that Jeremy Vine spends less time in make-up than I do,” she said. “Women are more likely to be criticised for their appearance on air.”

But the BBC argues that the two performed “very different roles.”

“There is a clear distinction between the two shows, and their genres, which is reflected in their broadcasting slot and their audience,” the BBC’s director of strategy Gautam Rangarajan was quoted as saying.

A judgment is likely early next year or before Christmas.