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Pull the other one

Today I know that I’m going to seem like a curmudgeonly old non-PC misogynist by offering my views on this subject. However, I know that this won’t bother my female fellow columnists unduly because all those that I’ve spoken to have told me so.

Here’s my text for today’s post – a piece by Nicola Slawson on Martina Navatilova’s complaint that the BBC paid her ten times less that it paid John McEnroe as a tennis pundit, as appears today upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN

It’s just that on the issue of ‘gender pay equality’ – a concept with which incidentally I wish to stress I have no problem in principle, i.e. when it comes to ‘equal pay for equal work’ and indeed ‘equal opportunity’ – which I totally accept remains a problem for all women trying to break into what is still supposedly a ‘man’s world’.

However, what riles me is that those thumping the table on behalf of supposedly downtrodden (and discriminated against) females sometimes fail to any account of sheer, straightforward, talent and/or quality.

Or indeed, the vagaries (slings and arrows) of outrageous fortune, the era they are in and/or comparing themselves with, and even fashion and the strange and sometimes illogical attributes that ‘make the camera or the microphone love (respond to) one person more than another’.

Here I must also add a disclaimer – or perhaps it is a snide political comment – that a fallacy in the arguments of many of those campaigning on behalf of gender pay equality is their inherent notion that if someone ostensibly does the same job as someone else they are entitled to the same pay.

In other words, that one size fits all – and must or ought to.

A misconception that if you do the same job as someone else, you must therefore be worth the same as anyone else who does it. Perhaps irrespective of whom they’re working for and in what circumstances.

Let me simply respond thus; “That’s all very well but there’s a difference between being a sales assistant at Waitrose in central London and being one in a one-off local supermarket on the corner of a street in Salford or Halifax. If you are suggesting that a sales assistant is a sales assistant, irrespective of the circumstances … surely you’re not on solid ground?”

Further, there’s the issue “You are only ever worth what you can persuade someone to pay you”.

Just because somewhere, perhaps in some country, you can find someone earning two, three … even ten times … what your employer is paying you, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re entitled to two, three … even ten … times your current wage.

And what about the circumstances that sometimes arise where one worker in a hypothetical widget factory produces just 5 widgets per hour … and yet another produces 10 of equal or superior quality?

If you’re making a priority of the end product, why shouldn’t the employer of both pay the latter a premium (if not double the wage)?

Unless, that is, your argument is that how things should be is that if the poorest – or least efficient, or least talented, or laziest – worker cannot produce more than 5 widgets per hour, then nobody should be allowed to produce more than 5 per hour.

Back in my heyday I worked for a period in ITV.

In that world, ‘the talent’ (those who were actors, directors, writers, presenters, chat show hosts, light entertainment artistes – to name but a few of many roles) was always king.

Some of the most famous and brilliant ‘talent’ – and their agents – were among the nicest people you could possibly wish to meet, and also some of the easiest you could imagine to work with. Their word was their bond. They were pleasant, helpful, courteous, humble and for them nothing – however trivial, or complicated or onerous – was too much trouble.

By the same token, some of the least famous, least talented, most unpleasant and indeed least deserving of respect on any human level of their counterparts were a constant strain and indeed pain to come into contact with.

In my experience anyway, there was absolutely no correlation at all between ‘talent’ and diva-like behaviour.

There were innumerable degrees of this involved, of course, but generally-speaking some of the greatest and most brilliant ‘talent’ I have ever come across professionally were also some of the most pleasant – not to say impressive – people to meet and spend time with. And some of the least talented were some of the nastiest, unhelpful, egotistical, self-centred, arrogant and difficult.

And, naturally, all of the above is not to say that some of the greatest and most ‘talented’ people I have met in my time were not the also the most difficult, prickly, demanding and stressful to deal with. These are the ones who tend to support the notion of ‘the tortured genius’ – i.e. the more difficult you are, the greater talent or genius you must possess.

Were the outputs of the likes of famously ‘difficult’ people like Vincent Van Gogh, Orson Welles and Maria Callas somehow caused by, or simply a by-product of, their talent?

To over-simply an example, was Vincent Van Gogh the great artist he was because of his supposed ‘madness’, or was it nothing to do with his ability at all? (Would he have been anything like as great an artist without it?).

Who knows?

All I’m saying is that, as regards today’s case in point, just because John McEnroe allegedly got paid £150,000 to do some punditry, it doesn’t necessarily follow (to the BBC) that he wasn’t worth ten times as much to the BBC as Martina Navratilova.

It might just be that’s exactly how much more valuable to the BBC he was than Martina as a pundit.

In the wacky world of television, radio, film – and indeed all manifestations of art – the supposed ‘rules’ of supply & demand, talent or lack of it, even just deserts and fairness – have little or nothing to do with anything.

It’s why such modern – and, depending upon your subjective view – minimally-talented fluffy pop groups like Little Mix, Atomic Kitten and One Direction  … I name just three at random [and I may add may have got my facts wrong on this] … have probably made more money in their careers than former titans like the Kinks, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.

Just get over it!







About William Byford

A partner in an international firm of loss adjusters, William is a keen blogger and member of the internet community. More Posts