BBC's List of Top-Paid Stars Sparks Controversy Over Pay Gap, Lack of Diversity

Image: Presenter Claudia Winkleman arrives for the BAFTA awards ceremony at the Royal Opera House in London
Presenter Claudia Winkleman arrives for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards ceremony at the Royal Opera House in London February 12, 2012.Suzanne Plunkett / Reuters file

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By Amanda Proença Santos

A report disclosing the salaries of top stars at the BBC stirred controversy Wednesday when it revealed a massive gender pay gap and lack of minority presence in the top ranks of the British broadcaster.

Sports broadcaster Gary Lineker talks with students at St. Brigid's Catholic Primary School in Birmingham, England, on February 6, 2014.Andrew Yates / Reuters file

The publicly funded company is required by the British government to disclose the pay of anyone making more than £150,000 (around $195,000) a year, according to the 2016/2017 annual report. The numbers revealed that 96 actors and presenters are paid more than that amount — making more than the British prime minister, who is paid £150,000 a year.

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The top-earner on air was revealed to be radio show host Chris Evans, who rakes in more than $2.8 million. Sports broadcaster Gary Lineker has the second-highest salary, with more than $2.2 million.

There was backlash on social media over all the top seven earners being men.

Of the 96 top stars, 62 are men and 34 are women. The highest-paid woman is presenter Claudia Winkleman, who makes more than $580,000.

Prime Minister Theresa May spoke about the broadcaster's gender wage gap on British radio, urging BBC to look into the issue.

"We've seen the way the BBC is paying women less for doing the same job. I want women to be paid equally,” May said on LBC Radio, according to BBC News.

Critics also pointed out the lack of racial diversity among the top talent. The highest-paid minority stars are George Alagiah, Jason Mohammad and Trevor Nelson, who each make about $325,000 — considerably less than the top earners.

Others on social media were upset about how much BBC stars make in general, questioning the necessity of the high taxpayer-funded salaries.

BBC director-general Tony Hall acknowledged the public's concerns, but defended the broadcaster's position as a leader in diversity.

"On gender and diversity, the BBC is more diverse than the broadcasting industry and the civil service," Hall told BBC News. "We've made progress, but we recognize there is more to do and we are pushing further and faster than any other broadcaster."