BBC presenter Samira Ahmed has said she is sorry Jeremy Vine has been “dragged” into her equal pay claim as she pursues nearly £700,000 from the corporation.
The Newswatch presenter is facing the BBC in an employment tribunal this week, claiming she was paid “a sixth” of what Vine earned while he was presenting Points Of View, a programme she deems similar.
The BBC disagrees that the shows and presenters are comparable, and is arguing the claim should be dismissed because the show she presents is not as popular.
During her evidence on Thursday, Ahmed said she was “incredibly grateful” to Vine as she believed a reduction in his pay was sparked by her equal pay complaint.
Vine’s salary for Points Of View was more than halved in 2018 – the year he left the show – and BBC bosses feared they would “antagonise him” if they lowered it further.
The corporation said his fee was renegotiated from £3,000 per episode to £1,300 due to the programme’s budget being reduced and the format being under reconsideration.
Ahmed said she had already raised the issue of pay verbally before October 2017, when her first email to BBC bosses argued that Vine was her pay comparator.
“I was in contact with Jeremy and I messaged him around this time,” she told the tribunal.
“I told him I had an equal pay issue and I know under law you can ask a colleague (their salary) if there’s an issue about pay.
“He did not get back to me for seven months. We had a phone conversation and he explained it was very awkward because the salary negotiation was going on when I contacted him.
“He said he was aware there was a connection.”
Ahmed told the tribunal on Thursday that during the “personal chat” with Vine, he said it was not a “fair situation” and he “seemed to acknowledge there was an awkwardness about the salary”.
During the evidence, Rachel Crasnow QC, for the BBC, asked Ahmed why she had not included the phone call with Vine in her written witness statement.
“I was hoping we wouldn’t have to go to tribunal,” she replied, adding: “My issue is with the BBC, not with Jeremy Vine.
“I’m incredibly grateful to him as a colleague. I don’t want it to be about him and I’m sorry his name has been dragged into this.”
The BBC’s legal team says Ahmed was paid the same as her predecessor Ray Snoddy, who they refer to as her pay comparator, and that male stand-ins were paid slightly less.
But Ahmed argues that she should have been paid more than Snoddy, claiming to be a “much more experienced broadcaster”.
The BBC’s legal team also claims Vine’s fee was arranged during a commercial negotiation, against a background where his predecessor Terry Wogan was paid £3,500 per episode.
A number of BBC bosses are expected to give evidence to the Central London Employment Tribunal as part of the case.
Ahmed’s claim is in relation to being paid £440 per episode for Newswatch, an audience-led critique of BBC News coverage.
She is seeking a back pay claim for £693,245 between November 2012 and February 2019 based on an average of 40 programmes a year across both channels.
The presenter previously secured an agreement with the BBC to receive full backdated pay with her male counterparts for her work on Radio 4’s Front Row and Night Waves on Radio 3.
The case continues.