BBC spends less than half its cash on pro­grammes

Crit­ics de­mand in­quiry into ‘stag­ger­ing’ waste

Daily Mail - - News - By Kather­ine Rush­ton and Daniel Martin

THE BBC was last night ac­cused of ‘ mind- blow­ing’ ex­cess af­ter it emerged that it spends less than half of its money on pro­grammes for li­cence fee pay­ers.

Amid warn­ings that min­is­ters may im­pose a five-year freeze on the li­cence fee, it was re­vealed just £2.4bil­lion of its £5.1bil­lion an­nual bud­get went on ‘public ser­vice con­tent’ in the year to April 2014.

Most of the re­main­ing cash was swal­lowed up by costs that in­cluded run­ning its os­ten­ta­tious build­ings, mid­dle-man­agers and ser­vices such as hu­man re­sources and mar­ket­ing.

The Cor­po­ra­tion also pumped money into its com­mer­cial arm, BBC World­wide, and BBC Global News, pro­duc­ing con­tent for au­di­ences over­seas.

But only £217mil­lion was spent on the es­sen­tial job of ac­tu­ally trans­mit­ting the pro­grammes around Bri­tain.

MPs said the fig­ures were ‘stag­ger­ing’ and called for a par­lia­men­tary in­quiry. Tory MP Bill Cash said: ‘It’s just mind-blow­ing. I can’t begin to imag­ine how they can jus­tify it.

‘This rev­e­la­tion demon­strates the need for a rad­i­cal over­haul of the BBC. The mat­ter must be re­ferred im­me­di­ately to the Public Ac­counts Com­mit­tee.’

Con­ser­va­tive Stephen Ham­mond, a mem­ber of the Public Ac­counts Com­mit­tee dur­ing the last Par­lia­ment, said: ‘I would have ex­pected at least three quar­ters of their money to be spent on pro­grammes that li­cence fee pay­ers see.’

Labour MP He­len Good­man said: ‘Ei­ther they’re very in­ef­fi­cient or they’ve got a very bad ac­count­ing sys­tem. They’ve ob­vi­ously not got the bal­ance right and since the li­cence fee is oblig­a­tory, we do need to be able to demon­strate how th­ese costs go to ser­vice view­ers.’

It was re­ported at the week­end that a five-year freeze in the li­cence fee was ‘ al­most in­evitable’ – a move that would amount to a £500mil­lion cut in the BBC’s an­nual bud­get.

Ac­cord­ing to the last set of of­fi­cial ac­counts, for the year to April 2014, the Cor­po­ra­tion spent just £1.7bil­lion on tele­vi­sion pro­grammes. Only £480mil­lion was spent on ra­dio ser­vices, and £106.5mil­lion was ploughed into on­line con­tent. Mean­while, the Cor­po­ra­tion spent £568mil­lion – nearly as much as the ra­dio and on­line ser­vices com­bined – on ‘in­fra­struc­ture and sup­port’.

This in­cludes the £141.2mil­lion cost of run­ning its build­ings, and a long list of back­of­fice func­tions such as hu­man re­sources.

To­day’s fig­ures are likely to cast a shadow over the Cor­po­ra­tion’s ne­go­ti­a­tions with Gov­ern­ment over its fund­ing ar­range­ments, which are due to be re­vised next year.

The ap­point­ment of Cul­ture Sec­re­tary John Whit­ting­dale, who has called the li­cence fee ‘worse than the poll tax’, has led to spec­u­la­tion that the Cor- po­ra­tion will face ma­jor changes to the way it is funded.

Mr Whit­ting­dale’s Depart­ment for Cul­ture Me­dia and Sport said it was too early to say at what level the li­cence fee would be set as part of the Char­ter re­newal ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Last night broad­caster Jonathan Dim­bleby crit­i­cised the BBC’s ‘ enemies’ and warned against fur­ther cuts to the li­cence fee, which is set at £145.50.

He ad­mit­ted that there were ‘things wrong with the BBC’, say­ing that its ‘ bu­reau­cracy can still be slimmed’. But he told Ra­dioTimes.com: ‘ The na­tion would lose mas­sively if the BBC were to face any kind of demise.

‘I be­lieve that while there are pow­er­ful vested in­ter­ests who would like to see the BBC de­nied a li­cence fee. With­out a li­cence fee the BBC could not do what it does.’ A BBC spokesman said of the spend­ing fig­ures: ‘This is a com­pletely mis­lead­ing com­par­i­son which ig­nores ba­sic costs like get­ting TV or ra­dio pro­grammes into peo­ple’s homes, news­rooms and edit suites.

‘With­out this we wouldn’t be able to broad­cast and script and story devel­op­ment, with­out which we wouldn’t have any shows.

‘Li­cence fee pay­ers rightly ex­pect value for money and the re­al­ity is that more than 90 per cent of spend­ing we con­trol is on con­tent-re­lated costs while we’ve made sav­ings of £1.1bil­lion a year.’

Mr Whit­ting­dale de­clined to com­ment last night. How­ever, he has al­ready made it clear that he takes a dim view of the BBC’s ap­proach to spend­ing.

Com­ment – Page 14

‘Worse than the poll tax’

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