LONDON (Reuters) - The BBC said three women - Claudia Winkleman, Vanessa Feltz and Zoe Ball - had joined the list of its top 10 paid stars, a change the publicly funded British broadcaster said demonstrated the progress it was making in closing its gender pay gap.
The BBC was criticised two years ago when it was forced to disclose that 75% of its staff paid more than £150,000 a year were men, with its highest 10 earners all men.
The corporation’s Director-General Tony Hall said the broadcaster had “turned the corner” on gender pay.
“When we first published the figures for top talent, there was a 75:25 split between men and women,” he said on Tuesday.
“The projection for 2019/20 is now 55:45. This is significant change. The task is not complete, we are not complacent, but we are well on our way.”
The broadcaster was compelled by the government to disclose the salaries of its on-screen talent, a move that revealed the gender pay gap. Prime minister Theresa May was one of those to criticise it, saying it was paying women less for doing the same job as the men.
Gary Lineker, the face of BBC football and a former England striker, was again the top earner, with a salary up to £1.75 million for presenting “Match of the Day” and the broadcaster’s World Cup coverage.
BBC Radio Two breakfast presenter Chris Evans, who left in December to join a commercial radio station, earned between £1.25 million and £1.255 million, and chatshow host and radio broadcaster Graham Norton was third on £610,000-£614,999.
Zoe Ball, Evans’s replacement on the BBC’s highest-rated radio programme, earned £370,000 to £374,999, the same as TV and radio presenter Claudia Winkleman.
Vanessa Feltz earned £355,000 to £359,999 for shows on Radio 2 and BBC Radio London.
“I’d like to congratulate the three women who have made it into the top 10,” said Jane Garvey, presenter of BBC Radio’s “Woman’s Hour” show and a campaigner for equal pay.
“That’s 30% of the top 10. Of course it would be nice if it was 50, or maybe even more than that.”
The broadcaster, which in 2018/19 received £3.69 billion in licence fees - a £154.50 tax on all television-watching households, said the gender pay gap across the organisation had also fallen. It dropped from 9.3% in 2017 to 6.7% in the 2018/19 fiscal year.
Hall said the BBC, which was founded in 1922, was holding its own against the big streaming giants, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, with 91% of British adults using its TV, radio and online services every week.
The BBC also said its weekly global reach had increased by 13% to 426 million people, helped by programmes such as Blue Planet II.
The David Attenborough programme, which highlighted the issue of plastic pollution in the oceans, had reached three quarters of a billion people, it said.
Editing by Michael Holden