Belfast Telegraph

Austin backs BBC journalist's pay protest

By Ryan Wilkinson

BBC Northern Ireland presenter Wendy Austin has lent her support to the broadcaster's former China editor, who quit the role in protest at its "secretive and illegal pay culture".

Carrie Gracie said the corporation was facing "a crisis of trust" by not paying its male and female workers equally.

A string of prominent BBC broadcasters, including Clare Balding, Emily Maitlis and Sarah Montague, have to voiced their support for her.

Yesterday Ms Austin, who presented Radio Ulster's Talkback for five years, and now fronts Inside Business, Tweeted: "#Istandwithcarrie for my colleagues, my daughters - and my son and grandsons."

She also retweeted a series of messages from others who had posted in support of Gracie.

Another Northern Ireland-born journalist, Annita McVeigh, posted: "A compelling & brave letter from the brilliant @BBCCarrie - her story @thetimes #equalpay #bbcwomen #istandwithCarrie."

Both were among 40 high-profile women who wrote to director-general Tony Hall last summer urging him to end the sex "discrimination" revealed in a list of stars' salaries.

Yesterday the BBC said it is performing "considerably better" than other organisations on gender pay, although a group representing women at the corporation said it knew of up to 200 who had lodged complaints.

After tweeting "wish me luck", Gracie was back on air presenting BBC Radio 4's Today programme alongside John Humphrys, the BBC's highest-paid news presenter with a salary of between £600,000 and £649,999.

Making a short statement, in light of the fact Humphrys, under the impartiality rules, could not interview her, Gracie said she was "moved" by the reaction from people.

"I think the scale of feeling, not just among BBC women but also just more widely across the country and also internationally, the support that I've had in the last few hours over this, I think it does speak to the depth of hunger for an equal, fair and transparent pay system.

"And the other thing I'd like to say is that what is lovely for me is that people are mentioning my China work, because I would not wish to be remembered forever as the woman who complained about money."

Humphrys then joked: "Too late, too late."

Gracie added: "I want to be remembered as the person who did fine China work and enough people are saying that for me to feel that won't get buried as a result."

Humphrys replied: "Well, and they would be right too, some fine China work."

The BBC's chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet, Today presenter Sarah Montague and Woman's Hour presenter Jane Garvey all described Gracie as "brave and brilliant".

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