The BBC should consider capping salaries at £150,000 unless there are “special circumstances”, according to new Culture Secretary Matthew Hancock.
Such a move would bring the pay in line with the rest of the public sector, with Hancock saying the corporation had “missed a chance” to bring in the limit at the same time as the government in 2010.
Hancock also said the corporation has a “special responsibility” to lead on issues around equal pay.
The statement comes following continued controversy over salary disputes, with China editor Carrie Grace tending her resignation following the discovery that she was earning up to £45,000 less than her male counterparts.
“Making sure we have equal pay isn’t just about levelling up women’s pay in the BBC, it’s about equal pay and a reasonable level,” Mr Hancock told ITV’s Peston On Sunday.
“Across the rest of the public sector, we brought in rules to say that except in exceptional circumstances, people who are paid for by taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be paid more than the Prime Minister.
“The BBC, of course, are responsible for their own pay, and I think that they missed a chance to bring in that kind of rule when we brought it in for the rest of public sector a few years ago.
“So now it has to go through a special process to pay somebody more than the Prime Minister.”
He added: “Of course, there’s sometimes circumstances where that’s necessary, but if you think about it this way.
“In a country around the world where people are paid for by the taxpayer, who should we be paying the most to. Is it the BBC editor, or is it the ambassador?
“The generals have also made a very good point, that people in the armed services put their life on the line and yet they abide by the public sector pay norms, which is not to have excessive pay and where the Prime Minister’s pay is seen as a guide at the top.”
A BBC spokesman said: “We have reduced the amount we pay talent by a quarter over the past five years; however, we’re not competing in the same markets as politicians and other public sector jobs. We are competing against ITV, Sky, C4, and increasingly now the deep pockets of Netflix, Amazon and Apple.
“A number of presenters have left the BBC for considerably more money but we always look to negotiate deals at discount against the market. We have the highest respect for ambassadors, but these are entirely different jobs and in a different market.”