Gary Lineker has taken a 25 per cent pay cut to remain as host of Match of the Day for the next five years, along with an agreement to be more careful in his use of Twitter to push political causes.
Tim Davie, the new BBC director general, announced the deal at the launch of the corporation's annual report, emphasising that all BBC staff would be bound by strict new social media guidelines within weeks.
Lineker, who earlier this year suggested it was time to make the BBC licence fee voluntary, took home £1.75m in the last financial year, well ahead of any other employee. He has attracted the ire of rightwing media outlets for tweeting criticism of the UK government and Brexit.
“Gary knows that he has responsibilities to the BBC in terms of his use of social media,” said Davie.
The pay cut will put Lineker level with the Radio 2 breakfast show host Zoe Ball, who took home £1.36m last year. The annual report, which includes the salaries of all staff earning more than £150,000, reveals substantial pay increases for many prominent women.
Lauren Laverne's income was substantially boosted, to £395,000, by her promotion to become 6Music's lead presenter, while there was also a hefty pay rise for Fiona Bruce, who took home £450,000 after landing the presenting job on Question Time.
The figures cover only earnings from the BBC’s public service output, meaning it is dominated by news and sport presenters. The decision to exclude staff who work for BBC Studios – the corporation’s for-profit programme-making arm – means earnings from many popular shows such as Casualty or Strictly Come Dancing are kept secret.
The annual report also reveals the corporation missed its own target to have 15 per cent of leadership positions held by black, Asian and minority ethnic staff by 2020, amid concerns among staff about the career progression of people of colour within the organisation.
On-screen representation of people of colour is up to 27 per cent of all BBC contributors, but among the staff who help programmes get on air it remains below 10 per cent.
The BBC is also facing substantial financial pressures. There has been another small drop in the number of British homes with a television licence, even though the number of households continues to rise.
Davie emphasised he would impose new measures to boost the perception of the BBC as an impartial news outlet, especially around the Twitter activity of news reporters. He said there would be fresh guidelines for all BBC employees within weeks, with even stricter rules for anyone involved in the BBC’s new output.
The BBC has also admitted it is now seen as second best for streaming content among some parts of the public: "Netflix is often seen to be the market leader by younger audience members … iPlayer is generally valued, but it is usually used to find something they already know about rather than as a destination."
Viewing of traditional television channels continues to fall heavily, although the BBC claimed that for the first time streaming viewing on iPlayer is starting to replace these lost audiences.
The BBC’s top earners
1. Gary Lineker - £1.75m
2. Zoe Ball - £1.36m
3. Graham Norton - £725,000
4. Steve Wright - £475,000
5. Huw Edwards - £465,000
6. Fiona Bruce - £450,000
7. Vanessa Feltz - £405,000
8. Lauren Laverne - £395,000
9. Alan Shearer - £390,000
10. Stephen Nolan - £390,000