- Video report by ITV News Correspondent Carl Dinnen
Radio 2 host Chris Evans has been revealed to be the highest paid member of BBC staff, earning between £2.2 million and £2.25 million per year.
After Evans, Match of the Day host Gary Lineker was the second most highly paid star, on a salary of between £1.75 million and £1,799,999, and then Graham Norton on between £850,000 and £899,999.
The revelations came as the BBC published for the first time the salaries of its staff who earned £150,000 or more last year.
It showed that a total of 214 BBC staff earned over the threshold, with all salaries paid using licence fee revenues from taxpayers.
There was also embarrassment for the BBC as it emerged that two thirds of the BBC's top earners were white men.
Of the most highly paid on-air stars, the top seven are all white males.
And within the top 20 highest paid on-air stars, only five are female and none are of black, Asian, or minority ethnic (BAME) descent.
The highest paid female on-air member of staff is Strictly Come Dancing host Claudia Winkleman - who is also the only woman in the top ten.
She in eighth place, earning between £450,000 and £499,999.
This means that the highest paid male on-air star is paid between four and five times the amount of the highest paid female on-air star.
The highest paid BAME on-air stars are DJ Trevor Nelson, newsreader George Alagiah, and Radio Wales presenter Jason Mohammad. All three earn between £250,000 and £299,999.
The highest paid BAME female is newsreader Mishal Husain, who earns between £200,000 and £249,999.
In comparison to the wages of those on-air, BBC Director General Tony Hall earns between £450,000 and £499,999, with his deputy Anne Bulford earning between £400,000 and £449,999.
Five other members of the BBC's executive committee earn between £300,000 and £349,999.
- The top 20 highest paid on-air stars at the BBC are:
- £2.2 million - £2,249,999 - Chris Evans (Radio 2 Breakfast Show presenter)
- £1.75 million - £1,799,999 - Gary Lineker (Match of the Day host)
- £850,000 - £899,999 - Graham Norton (The Graham Norton Show and radio presenter)
- £700,000 - £749,999 - Jeremy Vine (Radio 2 presenter)
- £600,000 - £649,999 - John Humphrys (television and radio presenter)
- £550,000 - £599,999 - Huw Edwards (newsreader)
- £500,000 - £549,999 - Steve Wright (Radio 2 presenter)
- £450,000 - £499,999 - Matt Baker (The One Show and Countryfile presenter) and Claudia Winkleman (Strictly Come Dancing presenter)
- £400,000 - £449,999 - Alex Jones (The One Show presenter), Nicky Campbell (radio and television presenter), Alan Shearer (Match of the Day presenter), Andrew Marr (The Andrew Marr Show presenter), and Stephen Nolan (Radio Ulster presenter)
- £350,000 - £399,999 - Derek Thompson (Casualty actor), Vanessa Feltz (radio presenter), Nick Grimshaw (Radio 1 presenter), Simon Mayo (Radio 2 presenter), Fiona Bruce (newsreader) and Tess Daly (Strictly Come Dancing presenter)
Following the publication of the figures, the BBC has come under fire over the lack of diversity among its highest paid stars.
Mr Hall told ITV News that he had "consistently" pushed for women in prominent roles and were making improvement.
"What this says to me is we have to go further and faster," he said of the latest publicly released figures.
He said that the BBC was trying to strike a balance between using taxpayers' money carefully whilst also ensuring the corporation attracts top talent.
"There is nobody paid for by the BBC who could not make more money outside," he said.
"What we're trying to do is to manage the money we're spending on behalf of the public properly, but also ensuring the public get what they want."
Prime Minister Theresa May led criticism of the BBC, saying it was wrong to pay women less for doing the same work.
"I think what has happened today is we have seen the way the BBC is paying women less for doing the same job as the men," she told LBC radio.
"I want to see women paid equally with men. The only reason we know about this though is because the Government required the BBC to publish these figures."
She also used the figures to argue that some public sector workers are "very well paid" when challenged in on ongoing row over years of pay restraint for state workers.
As the BBC bosses faced renewed pressure to make sure their talent reflects the UK, at least one of stars themselves was making light of the row.
Conservative MP John Whittingdale, who brought in the requirement for the BBC to publish salaries when he was culture secretary, said he had wanted the public to be able to decide if they were getting good value for money.
The Maldon MP insisted that the motive behind his call for the figures to be published was not to exert downward pressure on salaries, instead arguing that "it was about accountability".
He added: "It was about expecting the BBC to be able to make the argument as to why they felt that certain individuals were worth that."
Shadow culture secretary Tom Watson defended the pay packets of top BBC stars, arguing that "the BBC is one of the world's greatest broadcasters and we shouldn't be surprised that its top stars - who millions of people tune in to watch and listen to every week - are well paid.
"Labour recognises the BBC's dilemma - the need to give licence payers value for money while operating in a competitive commercial environment against other broadcasters who do not have to disclose what they pay."
Mr Watson also highlighted the gender pay gap, calling it "wrong", adding that Labour "welcomes Lord Hall's commitment" to close it by 2020.
Similarly Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson said she hoped the publication of salaries would "galvanise" the BBC to close the gender pay gap.
The former equalities minister continued: "It is undoubtedly the case that the BBC had made strides in recent years to stop having programmes with just male voices being heard. It's not very long ago that that was pretty commonplace.
"Yes, they have made progress, but there is still a long way to go and there shouldn't be any complacency. Just being better than competitors is not something in itself that is sufficient.
"Eliminating the pay gap has to be the aim, and doing it as quickly as possible."