Belfast Telegraph

Today editor Sarah Sands: Storm over presenter pay is passing

She said pay is more ‘equitable’ following John Humphrys taking a pay cut.

The editor of the Today programme has said that the “storm” over presenters’ pay is passing.

Sarah Sands, the head of the BBC Radio 4 morning show, indicated that pay on the show is fairer following the BBC gender pay gap row.

Earlier this year Today stalwart John Humphrys revealed he had agreed to slash his salary, which was cut from £600,000 to £650,000 to around £250,000 to £300,000.

The pay decrease followed BBC China editor Carrie Gracie’s resignation early this year from her role in protest at unequal pay, as she called for men and women at the corporation to be paid the same.

Speaking to members of the Broadcasting Press Guild (BPG), former Evening Standard editor Sands said she believes the controversy is coming to an end.

She said: “That storm is passing. It seems pretty peaceful.

“It’s pretty equitable since John took a huge cut. John wanted to make the sacrifice. It wasn’t my responsibility, but of course I’m sympathetic.”

Sands said Humphrys, who has presented on the Today show for 31 years, had a “huge following. He is the sort of listeners’ champion. He is extremely uninterested in his own celebrity.

“The purpose of him is the pursuit of truth. He is extremely curious and extremely engaged.”

There is nothing to be gained by doing click-bait type programming. The Today programme brand will remain fundamentally the same Sarah Sands

Pressed on whether the veteran presenter would be moved on, Sands said: “It will be a decision when the time is right,” adding that there are no plans for a personnel change at present.

She also addressed the show’s Brexit coverage and said it would continue despite the topic being “sluggish”, and that the Today show would resist the temptation of “click-bait” in order to press on with the “unchanging” story.

She said: “The first (issue) is how we keep an audience engaged with what might be the most important news since the Second World War, but by far the most sluggish.

“Not everyone shares our passion. You can’t see anything happening. The story is unchanging. People say ‘I’m so tired of Brexit’.”

However, Sands added that the morning programme would not be “quitting Brexit because it’s boring”.

The editor said that getting the coverage right has “never been harder” for presenters, who draw criticism from both sides of the Brexit divide in their current coverage.

Some changes are planned for Today coverage, however, with a podcast mooted by Sands.

She said she aimed to “attract a younger listener to the Today programme habit. There’s something about just making it interesting for them.”

She added, however: “There is nothing to be gained by doing click-bait type programming. The Today programme brand will remain fundamentally the same.”

Sands took the helm on the show in 2017 after working outside the BBC.

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