Chris Evans tops list of highest paid BBC stars - here's how they compare

Getty Images

Britain's publicly-funded TV broadcaster the BBC has revealed the salaries of its top paid stars for the first time, in an move to become more transparent with license fee payers.

The list names 96 stars, journalists and presenters who earn £150,000 ($195,000) or more per year. Together their earnings total more than £30 million.

The announcement comes at the request of the government, who have placed the 94-year-old broadcaster under continued pressure to be upfront about how the TV license fee is spent.

The earnings were published in bands of £50,000. Around 100 executives also appear in the pay report, all earning more than Prime Minister Theresa May.

The top 10 earners

Radio Host Chris Evans to take over as the wildly popular British automotive series' Top Gear.
Jon Furniss | WireImage | Getty Images

1. Chris Evan, presenter - £2.2 to £2.25 million

2. Gary Lineker, presenter - £1.27 to £1.8 million

3. Graham Norton, presenter - £850,000 to £900,000

4. Jeremy Vine, presenter - £700,000 to £750,000

5. John Humphrys, presenter - £600,000 to £650,000

Graham Norton poses in the winners room at the House of Fraser British Academy Television Awards at Theatre Royal on May 10, 2015 in London, England.
Mike Marsland | WireImage

6. Huw Edwards, news broadcaster - £550,000 to £600,000

7. Steve Wright, presenter - £500,000 to £550,000

8. Claudia Winkleman, presenter - £450,000 to £500,000

9. Matt Baker, commentator and presenter - £450,000 to £500,000

10. Alan Shearer (among others), presenter - £400,000 to £450,000

Only one-third women

Claudia Winkleman arrives for the GQ 25th Anniversary Exhibition at Phillips De Pury on November 12, 2013 in London, England.
Stuart C. Wilson | Getty Images

Of the 96 top people listed, only 34 are women while the remaining 62 were men. Just one, Claudia Winkleman, who presents entertainment shows including Saturday night's "Strictly Come Dancing," made it into the top 10.

The salaries of female presenters are also largely dwarfed by their male counterparts. Overall, 25 men on the talent list receive more than £250,000 per year, compared to just nine women.

The announcement is expected to spark a backlash within the organization, where staff will learn for the first time how their pay compares with colleagues in similar roles. It is also likely to raise new questions from the government and TV license-payers as the gender pay gap issue continues to dominate public discussion.

Legal professionals have already suggested that female presenters may find themselves with grounds for a sex discrimination or equal pay claim if they can show they do similar work.

"To defeat such a claim, the BBC would have to demonstrate that there is an explanation for the difference, which has nothing to do with gender. They will likely try to rely on years of experience, audience ratings for particular shows and differences between program genres but, if the disparities are as striking as many expect them to be, it will not be an easy argument," Ruth Gamble, a partner at BDBF law firm, told CNBC via email Wednesday.

The BBC's director-general admitted at the release of the report that there is work to be done to bridge the pay gap.

"Is this where we want to be? No" Tony Hall said.

He said that the BBC needs to "go further and faster on issues of gender and diversity," but insisted that the broadcaster is doing better than many of its peers in the media industry.

He also told the BBC's "Today Programme" on Wednesday that at 10 percent, the gender pay gap in the BBC is well below the U.K. average of 18 percent. This figure is yet to be officially audited.

Hall claimed the BBC will close the gender pay gap and strive for parity in the number of men and women in on-air slots by 2020.

Great disparity 

People walk near the entrance to BBC Broadcasting House on October 22, 2012 in London, England.
Peter Macdiarmid | Getty Images

The number of top earners fell this year from 109 in 2016 and now represents "less than a quarter of one percent" of the BBC's 35,000-strong talent pool, Hall continued.

The total spent on top talent in also down by £5 million on last year.

The revelation is unlikely to appease critics however, many of whom argue that the disparities in the BBC pay scale are too great.

Media trade unions the BETCU, NUJ and Unite have been outspoken in their demands for the BBC to lift wages of the lowest paid. Last year it made calls for the broadcaster to introduce a new minimum yearly wage of £20,000 (excluding London weighting) for all BBC staff.

The proposals have yet to be addressed by the BBC.

Taking a pay cut

Nick Grimshaw is announced as the new presenter of Radio 1's Breakfast Show from the end of September at BBC Broadcasting House on July 11, 2012 in London, England.
Eamonn McCormack | WireImage

Hall insisted that the salaries of the BBC's highest paid talent are justified and enable the BBC to compete with private companies while ensuring license fee payers don't take the hit.

"We are a global broadcaster in a very competitive climate and we have to be competitive, but not foolishly. I wouldn't want us to be paying salaries that are not at a discount to the market," Hall told the "Today Programme".

"People expect us to have great presenters, great broadcasters, great stars, but pay them less than they get in the market. We're seeking to get a balance here between the spending of public money ... And also making sure we have the right faces on screen and the right voices behind the microphone because people expect the best from the BBC."

The director-general previously criticized the government's transparency demands, claiming that it was a "poachers' charter" and risked talent leaving the BBC for higher paying competitors. In 2015, radio DJ Zane Lowe left the BBC for a higher paid role at Apple in the U.S.

Former soccer player and now "Match of the Day" presenter Gary Lineker attempted to make light of the announcement on Twitter Wednesday, and pointed to the role of competitor broadcasters in boosting BBC pay packets.

How do they compare?

TV personality Ellen DeGeneres accepts the Favorite Daytime TV Host award onstage at The 40th Annual People's Choice Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on January 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.
Getty Images

Though eye-watering sums to many, the BBC salaries pale in comparison to those of other broadcasters, particularly in the U.S.

According to Forbes' 2016 list of the world's highest-paid TV hosts, the best earning presenters can expect sums in the tens of millions.