The BBC has cut £2 million from the pay bill for its top presenters as its highest earners either took a pay cut or quit.

Last year, the corporation paid £21.7 million to 76 presenters earning £150,000 or more. Its annual report for 2020-21, to be published on Tuesday, will show that figure has reduced by around 10 per cent.

Gary Lineker, the corporation’s highest-paid presenter, accepted a pay cut of £400,000 from his previous salary of £1.75 million.

Zoe Ball requested that her salary be reduced following a public outcry after it was disclosed that her pay shot up from £370,000 to £1.36 million when she took over the Radio 2 breakfast show. 

Last year’s third highest-earner, Graham Norton, quit his Radio 2 Saturday show in December, saving the BBC a significant portion of his £725,000 annual salary.

Other departures included Andrew Neil, who left his £175,000-a-year role at the end of last year to set up GB News.

The BBC is hoping that the reduction in pay for its £150,000-a-year club will help its case as it lobbies to maintain the licence fee.

Tim Davie promised a programme of reform when he took over as director general in September, and the reduced pay bill is a sign of "real and tangible progress", a BBC source said.

"We’ve made changes in the last year and the report will show we’re on the right path, but at the same time we’re not complacent and we know we need to continue the hard work," the source added.

Lineker’s reduced five-year pay deal was announced last year. The cut meant Ball replaced the Match of the Day host as the BBC’s highest-paid presenter.

Her mammoth salary increase – which was accompanied by a drop in audience of one million listeners when she replaced Chris Evans in the Radio 2 breakfast slot – was heavily criticised. That left her "uncomfortable" with her £1.36 million salary.

In an interview last week, she said: "It did feel like a good, positive moment that there was a big corporation willing to pay a woman about the same as what they had paid a man. Sadly, for some, the story didn’t really seem to be that … and then suddenly you’ve got other headlines."

A recent flurry of big-name departures from BBC radio is expected to take the bill down further in the coming months as they will be replaced by lower-paid DJs.

Nick Grimshaw (£240,000-£245,999) and Annie Mac (£170,000-£174,999) are to leave Radio 1, while Shaun Keaveny (£160,000-£164,999) announced that he is leaving 6 Music after 14 years.