BBC boosted PR and marketing spend whilst cutting hundreds of millions from overall budget

BBC media city. Picture: Shutterstock

The BBC spent millions more on marketing and communications this year whilst cutting hundreds of millions from its overall budget.

The figures, published today in the corporation’s Annual Report, show the BBC spent £86.8m on “marketing, audiences and communication” in 2016, compared with £69.8m listed under this heading in the 2014/15 report.

The BBC has reviewed the way it allocates costs in the current Annual Report and claims that on a like for like basis marketing spend is up from £79.6m in 2014/15 – a £7.2m increase.

A BBC spokesperson said: “This is due to increases in the marketing Creative Services Red Bee contract (which was responsible for delivering trails etc) together with increased spend on off-air marketing.”

Press Gazette has asked the BBC for an explanation of the increased spend for the year to April 2016. It came at a time when the corporation was making the case for renewing its government charter and retaining licence free income.

Last year the BBC announced it would be cutting more than 1,000 jobs, including many managerial roles.

The BBC said it has cut  2,000 employees over the past nine years.

But despite this, its workforce is now larger than it was two years ago.

The latest figures show that headcount has been reduced by 54 since last year, bringing the total to 18,920. This is higher than the figure for 2013/2014, which stood at 18,647.

The BBC said it has cut 437 posts over the year to 31 March 2016. But 110 more roles were created at myBBC and iPlayer as well as 56 posts in information security and technical positions and 39 apprentice, trainee and graduate roles.

Some 175 other roles were established or transferred and brought in house as opposed to being contracted out.

The BBC’s spending for the year was £4.089bn compared with £4.3bn the previous year, a fall of £211m.

The BBC said it is targeting annual cost savings of £800m by 2022.

BBC Trust chairman Rona Fairhead used the report to warn the corporation faces “tough decisions” ahead as it seeks to minimise the impact of budget cuts on its audience.

Fairhead said: “The BBC’s new funding settlement will now require even harder spending decisions… while its main competitors’ incomes are growing.

“This is to address the cost of free television licences for the over 75s, fund inflationary cost increases in areas like drama and sport, and to meet increasing audience expectations of the breadth and quality of BBC services, particularly online.

“It is clear that tough decisions lie ahead, and the priority for the BBC Board will be to minimise the impact on audiences while reducing costs to meet the budget.”

The report, covering 2015-16, found the BBC reached 96 per cent of UK adults each week last year across TV, radio and online.

But the weekly reach of BBC News and current affairs programmes fell to 77 per cent of UK adults across television, radio and online last year, from 80 per cent the year before.

It also says audience expectations are not being met for news and current affairs in England and BBC Local Radio, despite the introduction of the Local Live Feed website feature that provides links to longer form content both on the BBC and external sites.

The Local Live Feed feature had been intended as a means to combat the BBC’s online hegemony by linking to stories on local news websites.

The report stated: “The BBC will need to continue to improve the speed of its local news reporting and flex the ways in which stories are made available in order to meet changing audience expectations.”

Figures showed BBC television news is watched by 65 per cent of adults each week, while 53 per cent listen to news programmes on UK-wide BBC radio stations, and 26 per cent use BBC News online a week.

More than 76m unique browsers visited BBC News Online for coverage on the General Election in 2015.

 

Dame Janet Smith’s report into the cultures and practices of the BBC during the Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall years, released in February, exposed the “culture of the BBC” as having “enabled” both sex offenders “to go undetected for decades”.

In this year’s annual report, BBC Director-General Tony Hall has described the “horrific events that took place during that time” as a “truly dark chapter for the BBC”.

He said the BBC had accepted all of Smith’s recommendations, with work currently underway on implementing them, including “a thorough review of our policies and processes relating to bullying and harassment child protection and whistle-blowing, to ensure they reflect best practice”.

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