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Agent urged BBC bosses to stop ‘bullying’ Jeremy Vine

Alex Armitage sent ‘a rather colourful email’ to reject an initial offer during contract negotiations.

Jeremy Vine
Jeremy Vine

By Tom Pilgrim, PA

Jeremy Vine’s agent urged BBC bosses to stop “bullying” his client and treating him “like a child” during talks to renew the broadcaster’s pay deal.

Alex Armitage sent “a rather colourful email” to reject an initial offer during contract negotiations at the end of 2007.

Details of behind-the-scenes talks for Vine were revealed in evidential documents before an employment tribunal over an equal pay claim brought by TV presenter Samira Ahmed.

Stop treating him like a chattel and pay him properly... stop treating Jeremy Vine like a child as he is sick of it now Alex Armitage

In an email sent in December 2007 by Mr Armitage to Roger Leatham, then head of operations & business affairs for Entertainment for BBC Vision, he said: “The BBC must now stop bullying this artist and pushing him around on this deal and listen to him.

“Stop treating him like a chattel and pay him properly… stop treating Jeremy Vine like a child as he is sick of it now.”

Ahmed, the presenter of Newswatch, is facing the BBC at the tribunal claiming she was paid “a sixth” of what Vine earned while he was presenting Points Of View, a programme she argues is similar.

Ahmed is seeking nearly £700,000 in back pay between November 2012 and February 2019, saying she and Vine did similar work.

The BBC rejects the claim and says the work was not comparable.

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Samira Ahmed at the Central London Employment Tribunal (Yui Mok/PA)

Evidence from Mr Leatham, now director of business affairs for BBC Studios, provided an insight into his negotiations with Mr Armitage in 2007 and 2008 as the corporation tried to keep Vine in their employment.

In his witness statement provided to the media on Monday, Mr Leatham said Mr Armitage “wanted a three-year contract, rather than the usual two years”.

He added: “Financially, Alex stipulated that the total remuneration had to be close to the offer that ITV had apparently made. We were told that offer was close to a seven-figure amount.”

Mr Armitage also told Mr Leatham that ITV had made “a substantial offer and that Sky and Channel 4 also wanted Jeremy for both TV and radio work”.

In his statement, Mr Leatham said the demands made by Mr Armitage were “challenging” for the BBC at the time as it worked to “contain talent fee inflation” due to “limited funds”.

During a Central London Employment Tribunal hearing on Monday, Mr Leatham said the BBC could not ask other channels what they paid talent and he had taken his conversations with Mr Armitage “in good faith”.

“I don’t believe he was lying,” he added.

In his written statement, Mr Leatham said the BBC put “a lot of effort into retaining Jeremy” with then director general Mark Thompson becoming involved, something that was “very unusual”.

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Mark Thompson (Yui Mok/PA)

But an initial contract offer sent to Mr Armitage in November 2007, which included an opportunity to present daytime TV quiz show Eggheads, was not accepted.

Mr Leatham said: “Alex did not respond well to that offer and he sent me a rather colourful email to reject it.”

Following further negotiations the final agreed deal for Vine covered him working on Panorama, elections coverage, radio work and presenting Eggheads.

An extra “top-up” clause guaranteed the BBC would find work to the value of £100,000 for Vine or make a payment of up to £100,000 if it did not.

The corporation thought Vine could be used to work on “ceremonial events” or in other areas so the additional money could be “offset”.

Mr Leatham’s statement said the BBC, since it knew Points Of View would use Vine in 2010, was able to offset £60,000 a year for 20 episodes of Points Of View at £3,000 each against the top-up payment.

The tribunal continues.

PA

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