Government White Paper proposals for the renewal of the BBC Charter could see the broadcaster reveal top salaries of its highest paid stars, such as Chris Evans, Gary Lineker and Graham Norton.
Culture Secretary John Whittingdale demands more "transparency" on how the broadcaster spends licence payers' money. Due to be published on 12 May, the new enforcements could see the BBC divulge the pay of its biggest earners – those who make upwards of £450,000.
According to The Guardian, media executives have described the plan as a "poachers' charter", saying rivals could use the new rules to pick off the BBC's top earners.
Initially, Whittingdale is said to have set a base level for disclosure at £150,000, but David Cameron personally intervened to set the level to £450,000 – with the White Paper seen to lead a major overhaul for the Corporation. Despite seeking to preserve the corporation's independence, the paper states: "the BBC will be responsible for appointing at least half of the board members."
The original mooted base-level figure would have incorporated many of the Beeb's leading presenters and newsreaders such as Fiona Bruce, Huw Edwards and John Humphrys.
The plans also seek to close the loophole which enables viewing BBC's live broadcast content on phones and tablets without paying the licence fee. The culture secretary told MPs on May 11 that he wanted "to see as much transparency as possible" on how the BBC uses licence fee payers' cash – and that the next BBC Charter will run for 11 years. The corporation will be allowed to increase the licence fee in accordance with inflation from 2017.
At present, the BBC discloses very little information about employees' salaries, but revealed in 2015 that nine stars were paid more than £500,000.
It may seem like bad timing for the BBC's allegedly highest-paid star, Evans, as he finds himself in a media whirlwind relating to bullying and sexual assault claims, after reportedly netting £2m a year for his Top Gear and BBC Radio 2 gigs.
Other top earners – such as Match of the Day presenter Lineker, who is reported to be on £2m, with Norton and Balding earning similar incomes – look set to be confirmed in the big reveal.
Whittingdale will present the white paper to parliament, which seeks to give more power to media regulator Ofcom while replacing the BBC's current regulatory body with a unitary board.
The government pledges to use Ofcom in a bid to stop the BBC competing in ratings battles with commercial rivals. A source stated: "The tone has got to change at the BBC. The White Paper will say: 'Feel free to celebrate success of a ratings hit, but think a little more about it'."
Conservatives were keen to guarantee the BBC's freedom from government control, putting pressure on the culture secretary in the Commons. Whittingdale confirmed: "I have always made it clear that editorial independence is an incredibly important principle and that we will do nothing to undermine it."