Why is newsreader Martine Croxall suing the BBC?

Martine Croxall has not presented on the BBC since March last year but has remained on full pay.

(Left to right) Annita McVeigh, Martine Croxall, Karin Giannone and Kasia Madera arriving at the London Central Employment Tribunal in Kingsway, central London, where newsreader Martine Croxall is bringing an employment tribunal against the BBC. Picture date: Wednesday May 1, 2024.
Annita McVeigh, Martine Croxall, Karin Giannone and Kasia Madera arrive at the London Central Employment Tribunal in Kingsway, central London. (PA)

Newsreader Martine Croxall’s employment tribunal against the BBC began on Wednesday, following her absence from the channel for over a year.

The broadcaster is suing the BBC amid a high-profile gender pay dispute and continued questions over why several top female presenters have been kept off air.

She is among four senior female BBC journalists who have launched legal action against the organisation, claiming a job application process was “rigged”.

Croxall, Karin Giannone, Kasia Madera and Annita McVeigh claim they were snubbed over chief presenter roles following the merger of the BBC’s News and World News channels.

The women applied for the new roles as BBC News chief presenters but lost out to successful applicants, including Matthew Amroliwala.

They attended a preliminary hearing at the Central London Employment Tribunal after originally launching the claim with a fifth journalist who is no longer involved in the proceedings.

The BBC insists its application process was “rigorous and fair” and also denied the claims that the four women were paid less than an equivalent male colleague, according to the corporation’s website.

The two-day preliminary hearing was adjourned to Thursday at 10am.

Martine Coxall is suing the BBC.
Martine Coxall is suing the BBC.

Croxall and the other journalists, who are aged 48-55, claim they have suffered age and sex discrimination after the reorganisation of the BBC’s two TV news channels that was announced in July 2022.

In their witness statements, which appear to be similar, the women said: “I am one of five female chief presenters with BBC News, aged 48 to 54, at the time of the detriments, who have suffered (direct/indirect) discrimination on the grounds of age and sex victimisation for union rep activities, victimisation for carrying out protected acts (bringing equal pay claims), harassment (violation of dignity, creation of a hostile, degrading, intimidating environment in the workplace, causing us to suffer ill-health and reputational damage).

“This was because of a sham recruitment exercise where our jobs were closed even though the redundancies were not genuine as the work still exists.”

Croxall last presented the BBC News channel in March last year. Around the same time, the broadcaster announced their home and world news channels would be merged, with Croxall and her colleagues told to reapply for a smaller pool of newsreading roles. In total, 18 presenters were required to apply for five roles.

Tim Davie director-general at the BBC has said he is working to a
Tim Davie director-general at the BBC has said he is working to a 'fair resolution' for the women. (PA)
Annita McVeigh arrived at the tribunal with Croxall. (BBC)
Annita McVeigh arrived at the tribunal with Martine Croxall. (BBC)

Croxall is one of five female presenters over 45 who missed out, since then they have all been left without roles but have remained on full pay. Only two of the five, Geeta Guru-Murthy and McVeigh have returned to work, despite reports that at the start of 2024 they would all be given new on-screen jobs. The other two women stuck in limbo are Giannone and Madera.

Their witness statements add: “Four of us have been demoted, three are facing a sizeable pay cut, with a fourth having had her pay cut for half of her job.

“No men and no women younger than us suffered these detriments.”

In their tribunal claim, the women said that a manager had told union reps in consultation meetings that new lower paid correspondent-presenter jobs were intended as development opportunities, meaning they were for people with less experience than them.

Kasia Madera Presented Newsday London for the BBC. (BBC)
Kasia Madera Presented Newsday London for the BBC. (BBC)

They also said that the cuts have left the new channel understaffed and that director-general Tim Davie had said publicly on several occasions he wanted far fewer presenters.

The women believed they have not been paid equally compared with their male counterparts since February 2020 and there was a gap of about £36,000 a year in pensionable salary as of February 2023.

Being kept off the air happened against their will and took place amid press and social media speculation about their futures to which they had right of reply, they added. The BBC has denied the claims.

The BBC director general Tim Davie was asked about the situation at a parliamentary select committee in March where he said the corporation was working to a "fair resolution" for the women. He said: "It is not a good situation where you are paying people [who are off air], and we are trying to get it resolved as fast as possible. I recognise that it has been going on for some time."

The treatment of the five women has been a point of contention inside the BBC as well, with some being sympathetic but others questioning why they have been on full pay without a role. A BBC source told Deadline: "I don't think it's rocket science to say they have been badly treated."

Coxall's case will be the most high-profile legal challenge brought against the BBC since Samira Ahmed won a gender pay dispute in 2020.

At that time a London employment tribunal found that Ahmed should have been paid the same as fellow presenter Jeremy Vine for their work on Newswatch and Points Of View respectively. The BBC had argued the pair were not doing similar work.

Karin Giannone is one of the news anchors suing the BBC. (BBC)
Karin Giannone is one of the news anchors suing the BBC. (BBC)

Ahmed claimed she was underpaid by £700,000 for hosting the show when compared to Vine. The employment tribunal's unanimous judgment said her work was like that done by Vine, and the BBC had failed to prove the pay gap was not because of sex discrimination.

Samira Ahmed won an equal pay dispute against the BBC in 2020. (PA)
Samira Ahmed won an equal pay dispute against the BBC in 2020. (PA)

Radio presenter Sarah Montague also revealed in 2020 that she won a £400,000 settlement and an apology from the BBC after being treated "unequally" by them for many years.

The 53-year-old who previously presented BBC Radio 4’s Today programme alongside veteran journalist John Humphrys, said the deal came after a “long period of stressful negotiations” which was triggered after discovering a disparity in her pay and conditions.