It has forced the likes of Clare Balding, Alex Jones and Sue Barker to lead a signed open letter in protest to director general Tony Hall.
Chris Evans was paid at least £2.2m by the BBC last year while Gary Lineker collected more than £1.75m and Graham Norton more than £850,000, according to figures published by the corporation.
The list of 96 top earners exposed a series of gender disparities on pay in sports coverage, news, radio and TV. Only a third of the top earners are female and the top seven are all male.
Lawyers have warned that the BBC now faces exposure to gender discrimination claims by its female presenters. Labour’s Harriet Harman urged the BBC to stop using public money to discriminate against women.
BBC director general, Tony Hall, says he is committed to closing the gender pay gap at the BBC by 2020. “By 2020 we will have equality between men and women on air, and we will also have the pay gap sorted by then too,” he claimed.
Culture secretary Karen Bradley presented the issue of openness about BBC salaries as one of promoting equality rather than squeezing the resources of the corporation. But opponents of the BBC have been using the salaries to attack the corporation and scrap the licence fee.
Theresa May took a dig at the BBC high earners to deflect a question about pay in the public sector. Speaking at prime minister’s questions she said: “as we see today there are some people in public sector who are being very well paid”.
Gerry Morrissey, leader of Bectu which represents low-paid production workers said: “There should be a lot more focus on giving low-paid staff a decent living wage.”
Tudor are fully supportive of the petition signed by the BBC hosts.