BBC's top female stars prepare to revolt over gender pay gap

Some of the BBC's leading female stars have signed an open letter to Director General Tony Hall demanding that he "act now" to close the gender pay gap.

More than 40 women including Clare Balding, Victoria Derbyshire and Angela Rippon said it had been known "for years" that "women at the BBC are being paid less than men for the same work".

Wimbledon presenter Sue Barker, Today programme journalists Mishal Husain and Sarah Montague and BBC Breakfast regular Sally Nugent are also among those to have added their names to the letter.

One Show host Alex Jones, Antiques Roadshow's Fiona Bruce and Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis have also added their backing to sorting out pay inequality "now", rather than by Lord Hall's self-imposed 2020 timescale.

It comes after the BBC was compelled to publish details of its top-earning talent for the first time earlier this week in disclosures that showed two thirds of the best paid stars were men.

The letter says the signatories are "prepared to meet" Mr Hall "so that future generations of women do not face this kind of discrimination".

The salary details of all those earning more than £150,000 have sparked embarrassment for the BBC - and suggestions that they could be falling foul of employment law.

A number of on-screen stars were said to be entering into fresh pay negotiations after learning their male colleagues were significantly out-earning them.

The open letter to Mr Hall says they hope to use their prominence to help women who are suffering pay discrimination throughout the corporation.

"There are so many other areas including production, engineering and support services and global, regional and local media where a pay gap has languished for too long.

"This is an opportunity for those of us with strong and loud voices to use them on behalf of all, and for an organisation that had to be pushed into transparency to do the right thing.

"We would be willing to meet you to discuss ways in which you can correct this disparity so that future generations of women do not face this kind of discrimination."

Emily Maitlis was said to be 'totally furious' at the salary data revealed in the report. Credit: PA

Lord Hall has admitted there is "more to do" to equalise pay for women and black and ethnic minority staff.

"What this says to me is we have to go further and faster," he told ITV News after the report was released.

He has pledged that half of lead and presenting roles will be filled by women by 2020.

A BBC spokesman reiterated that "significant changes" had been made but they recognised that more had to be done.

"Across the BBC, the average pay of men is 10% higher than women. The national average is 18%.

"We are committing to closing it by 2020 - something no other organisation has committed to doing.

"The BBC's workforce has been hired over generations and this is complex and cannot be done overnight," they said.

"We are, however, confident that when these figures are published again next year they will show significant progress towards that goal.

"Tony Hall meets staff all the time and will of course meet individuals to hear their thoughts as we work to accelerate change."