John Humphrys defends 'jokey' pay-gap chat

John Humphrys defends 'jokey' pay-gap chat
From BBC - January 13, 2018

Radio 4 presenter John Humphrys has defended off-air comments he made about the BBC's gender pay gap, describing them as part of a "jokey" exchange.

The Today programme host told ITV News he had "consistently" spoken out in favour of "equal pay for equal work".

Humphrys and North America editor Jon Sopel were recorded discussing colleague Carrie Gracie, who quit as China editor over "pay discrimination".

The BBC was "deeply unimpressed" with the off-air chat, a BBC source said.

During the exchange before Monday's show, the pair reportedly joked about "handing over" pay to keep Gracie in the role.

Gracie had just quit because of what she said was pay inequality with her male counterparts - including Sopel - who were earning more than her 135,000-a-year salary.

After transcripts of the conversation became public, BBC Woman's Hour presenter Jane Garvey tweeted: "The Humphrys-Sopel exchange reveals, very neatly, what we are up against."

Asked whether his comments showed he did not support equal pay, Humphrys told ITV News: "That's complete rubbish, obviously that's complete rubbish."

He said the chat with his "old friend" Sopel had taken place at 04:00 GMT, ahead of a pre-recorded interview for Monday morning's edition of Today.

"We are in habit, Jon and I, of winding each other up and the purpose of this jokey - I emphasise jokey - exchange was a bit of mutual mickey-taking, and that is all it was," he said.

"If people took a different message from it, it could only be because they did not appreciate that it was a joke."

He added: "It has absolutely nothing to do with my views on women's pay, which I repeat and have said consistently should be equal - equal pay for equal work."

Humphrys said he had no idea the conversation was being recorded and the subsequent leak, first reported in the Sun and the Times newspapers, was "mildly annoying".

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