LONDON - The publicly funded BBC on Wednesday published the names and salaries of its highest-earning actors and presenters, revealing that its best-paid star, radio host Chris Evans, earns more than 2.2 million pounds ($2.9 million) a year.
The list shows that the BBC pays 96 on-air personalities at least 150,000 pounds ($195,000) a year -- more than Britain's prime minister.
The broadcaster was ordered by Britain's government to publish the salaries of on-air talent, which had previously been secret. The information is sensitive because the BBC is funded directly by taxpayers through a 147-pound (about $190) annual levy on every household that owns a TV or watches the BBC online.
The salaries are published in bands, rather than as exact figures. Former "Top Gear" host Evans, who fronts a daily radio breakfast show, gets between 2.2 million pounds and 2.25 million pounds. "Match of the Day" host Gary Lineker receives between 1.75 million pounds and 1.8 million pounds, while talk-show host Graham Norton is paid between 850,000 pounds and 900,000 pounds.
Conservative lawmaker John Whittingdale, who brought in the requirement when he was Culture secretary, said taxpayers deserved to know who at the BBC was earning high salaries "and reach a judgment for themselves of whether that is good value for money."
Some criticized the spending as excessive, while others slammed the gender pay gap revealed by the figures. Two-thirds of the top earners are men, and the highest-paid woman -- entertainment host Claudia Winkleman -- earns less than a quarter of Evans' salary.
News anchor Huw Edwards is paid over 550,000 pounds, some 200,000 pounds more than Fiona Bruce, who does much the same job.
BBC chief Tony Hall said the list showed "the need to go further and faster on issues of gender and diversity."