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If I learn BBC underpaid me I'll take action, says NI-born former news anchor Maxine

By Sherna Noah

A former BBC news presenter from Northern Ireland has said she is considering bringing a case against the broadcaster over pay.

Maxine Mawhinney from Belfast had just left the BBC after 20 years when the pay list was published last summer.

It revealed how Radio 2's Chris Evans topped the list on more than £2m, while the highest paid woman was Claudia Winkleman on between £450,000 and £499,999.

A review commissioned by the BBC found a 6.8% gender pay gap - but "no evidence of gender bias in pay decision-making".

Ms Mawhinney told Panorama: "I do know that I have sat beside men on TV doing the same job, probably (with) the same experience or I might have been even more experienced, and I know they were earning more than me."

Asked if she would take a case against the BBC over equal pay, she said: "If I find that I was entitled to have been paid at a different rate during the time I was there, of course I would."

When she left the BBC last April, Ms Mawhinney was the oldest female BBC national news presenter.

At the time she told the Belfast Telegraph that she had encountered ageism and sexism in her career, in which she has worked for BBC Belfast, UTV, ITN, Sky News, GMTV and BBC national news in London.

"You just have to take a stand and not get walked over," she said last year.

"This is an issue that is industry-wide and not only for women in front of the camera, but also those behind."

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova also hit out at the BBC after discovering that fellow Wimbledon pundit John McEnroe is paid at least 10 times more than her.

McEnroe's pay packet, of £150,000 to £199,999, was revealed in a list of the BBC's top-paid talent last summer.

Navratilova (61) told Panorama that she is paid around £15,000 by the BBC for her commentator role at Wimbledon.

"It was a shock because John McEnroe makes at least £150,000... I get about £15,000 for Wimbledon and unless John McEnroe's doing a whole bunch of stuff outside of Wimbledon he's getting at least 10 times as much money," she said.

Navratilova said that she was told she was getting paid a comparable amount to men doing the same job as her, adding: "We were not told the truth, that's for sure...

"(I'm) not happy... it's shocking... it's still the good old boys network."

BBC Sport told Panorama that "John and Martina perform different roles in the team, and John's role is of a different scale, scope and time commitment", adding: "They are simply not comparable. John's pay reflects all of this, gender isn't a factor."

Panorama said it estimated that McEnroe (59), who was crowned Wimbledon champion three times, appeared around 30 times for the BBC at Wimbledon last year, compared to Navratilova's 10 appearances.

Fran Unsworth, the BBC's director of news and current affairs, told Panorama: "We don't think we have acted illegally in regard to equal pay.

"That doesn't mean, however, there won't be instances and cases where there is inequality and we need to address those."

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