Magnus Manske Magnus Manske

The BBC is under the cosh as the pay gap between gender is revealed. But are we missing a wider point?

It is a little odd. It has emerged that Chris Evans receives an income of just over £2 million. Gary Lineker is on around £1.75 million, and Graham Norton just shy of £900,000. The best paid female star is Claudia Winkleman at the BBC, on £450,000 to £500,000.

The media, the same media who see the BBC as its rival, react in horror at the news of the gender pay gap.

But isn’t it a more relevant point that market conditions have thrown up such high wages and gender disparity?

There is a parallel with the debate over pay to tennis players. Roger Federer would have received £2.2 million for winning Wimbledon this year, as would Garbiñe Muguruza, the ladies winner. But as recently as 2006, the men’s winner received more money than the ladies’.

So that’s good, the tennis authority have applied equal treatment of the sexes.

But take another look, the fees paid to the men’s champion at Wimbledon have risen from £655,000 in 2006, to the £2.2 million paid today – this during a period when median wages have barely kept pace with inflation.

It’s been the worst period for wage growth in 150 years, and yet the prize money at Wimbledon has risen three-fold.

Maybe we should have been told how much the fees paid to BBC stars have gone up.

In terms of treatment of gender pay, the tennis authorities have set an example that the BBC should heed.

But maybe there is a bigger story here. The money paid out to top sportsmen and sportswomen and stars at the BBC is symptomatic of a winner takes it all economy – the ABBA economy.

It is not really the fault of the BBC, it pays what the market determines, and what the market determines is down to what the public want.

The real reason why there is such a pay gap at the BBC may simply be because the viewing public are sexist.

The BBC can do its bit by deliberately promoting its female stars, maybe by doing radical things like appointing a female Doctor Who.

But look at how many fans reacted negatively to the news of a women Doctor. It will be good news indeed if Jodie Whittaker can excel as the new Doctor, maybe that will do more to promote a more gender-neutral stance amongst the public.

Being fair, it is of course outrageous that the BBC pays its male stars so much more than its female stars, but then the amount of money it pays its best paid females stars hardly seems fair, either.

But then, the markets are not fair, and sometimes, policy has to rise above the wishes of the markets or the public to correct human bias.