LONDON (NYTIMES) - When the government forced the BBC to publish the salary ranges of its highest-paid entertainers and journalists, executives feared a backlash from the British public, most of whom pay 147 pounds (S$260) a year for the privilege of watching its television broadcasts.
While many Britons criticised the high salaries, the list also showed a significant disparity in the salaries received by women, men and minorities in general at the British broadcaster - a pay gap that has angered many, including some of the BBC's most talented female employees.
On Sunday (July 23), in an open letter signed by 42 of them to the BBC director general Tony Hall and published in The Sunday Times of London and other news outlets, they demanded that the corporation "act now" to eliminate the disparity.
Among the signers were anchors and media personalities such as Clare Balding, Sue Barker and Angela Rippon, and distinguished journalists such as Lyse Doucet, Jane Garvey, Emily Maitlis, Mishal Husain, Zeinab Badawi, Katya Adler and Sarah Montague.
In the letter, they asked Hall to meet them, writing: "You have said that you will 'sort' the gender pay gap by 2020, but the BBC has known about the pay disparity for years. We all want to go on the record to call upon you to act now."
They wrote that the report confirmed a suspicion that "women at the BBC are being paid less than men for the same work".
The BBC revealed on Wednesday for the first time the salaries of stars earning more than 150,000 pounds. The figures, published in the corporation's annual report, showed that two-thirds of the people who fell into that category were male and white.
Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans was the top-paid star, earning more than 2.2 million pounds, the report showed.
Hall has promised to work to reduce the disparity, which has historical roots in what was a male-dominated corporation. Some prominent male journalists, such as John Humphrys, have said that they had already had their salaries cut to loosen up more funds. But the women's letter demanded that Hall accelerate the reduction.