Some of the BBC’s biggest stars are threatening to strike over equal pay.
According to reports, a host of female talent have mooted a mass walk-out unless veteran broadcaster John Humphrys is sacked.
It comes after the 74-year-old made a private, off-air joke about the alleged pay gap with colleague John Sobel.
Furious, an inside source at BBC Women – a feminist activist group at the corporation – told The Sun: “The only acceptable outcome they can see is for him to go.”
“They blame Humphrys, not Sopel,” they added. “It’s getting towards the point of a mass walkout by women at the BBC.
“They are so angry that Humphrys would not only hold these views, but share them in a studio while being recorded.”
It comes shortly after a number of women at the BBC shared or liked reports of the incident on social media.
They include Emma Barnett, Rachel Burden, Andrea Catherwood, Kirsty Wark and Leah Boleto.
But, despite this, BBC bosses are said to be standing firm in support of the Mastermind host, who has delivered three decades of service.
John Humphrys and Jon Sopel transcript
Here is a transcript of the conversation John Humphrys had with the corporation’s North America editor Jon Sopel, obtained by Buzzfeed News.
John Humphrys: “Can you hear me, Sopel?”
Jon Sopel: “Humphrys, I can hear you.”
Humphrys: “Good. Slight change of, em, slight change of subject. First question will be how much of your salary you are prepared to hand over to Carrie Gracie to keep her. And then a few comments about your other colleagues, you know, like our Middle East editor and the other men who are earning too much.”
Sopel: “I mean, obviously, if we’re talking about the scope for the greatest redistribution, I’ll have to come back and say: ‘Well, yes Mr Humphrys, but … “
Humphrys: “And I could save you the trouble because I could volunteer that I’ve handed over already more than you f**king earn, but I’m still left with more than anybody else, and that seems to me to be entirely just. Something like that would do it, do you think?”
Humphrys: “Dear God. She’s actually suggested that you should lose money. You know that, don’t you? You’ve read the thing properly, have you?”
Sopel: “Yeah, yeah I have. Yep.”
Humphrys: “And the idea is that I am not allowed to talk to her about it throughout the whole course of the programme, not a word.”
Sopel: “I mean, can we have this conversation … I’d love to talk to you about it.”
Humphrys: “Probably not now, yeah right.”
They will even allow him to host discussions on the pay-gap topic.
A BBC spokeswoman has already said: “This was an ill-advised off-air conversation which the presenter regrets.
“The BBC is committed to getting its pay structures right and, as we have said, we are conducting a comprehensive analysis of presenter pay.”
The ill-fated conversation between Humphrys and North America editor Sopel, before Monday’s BBC Radio 4 Today programme, heard them discussing Carrie Gracie, who had quit just hours earlier in protest of unequal pay.
Humphrys asked his colleague how much of his salary he would be prepared to “hand over” to keep Gracie as the BBC’s China editor, before adding: “Oh dear God, she’s actually suggested you should lose money.”
The presenter said the conversation had not been intended as a criticism of Gracie.
He said: “This was what I thought was an exchange between two old friends who have known each other for 30 years and were taking the mickey out of each other.
“It was nothing to do with Carrie’s campaign.”
However, Woman’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey was critical, saying: “The Humphrys-Sopel exchange reveals, very neatly, what we’re up against.
“And a useful reminder to be ever careful in a room with microphones.”
She added: “Heading into work at the Department of Mixed Messages – formerly known as the BBC.”
The Mirror have contacted the BBC for comment, but are yet to receive a response.