''Big question mark'' over BBC Radio's value for money

3 June 2009

04 June 2009 | Martha McKenzie-Minifie

A group of MPs has criticised the measure the BBC uses to assess if it achieves value for money in its radio production.

The Public Accounts Committee's (PAC) report noted "wide ranges of costs for similar programmes within and between its radio stations".

In a statement, chairman Edward Leigh MP said an hour of music programmes on Radio 2 was more than 50 per cent higher than comparable programmes on Radio 1.

"For most breakfast and 'drivetime' slots, the BBC's costs are significantly higher than commercial stations, largely because of payments to presenters," the report found.

"The BBC has not, however, used cost comparisons across its own programmes, or against commercial radio, to identify scope for efficiencies. The BBC uses its principal value for money indicator - cost per listener hour - to justify the cost of presenters on the basis of audience size, but the indicator does not provide assurance that programme costs are the minimum necessary to reach the required quality and intended audience."

Leigh also criticised a lack of openness from the BBC about breakdown of the "presenter and staff elements" of radio programme costs and said it placed a "big question mark" over whether the broadcaster was achieving value for money.

The PAC report said the BBC had set its 16 stations a combined target of efficiency savings of £69 million over the five-year period to March 2013, representing an annual saving of 3 per cent.

Jeremy Peat, BBC Trustee, said in a statement the MPs report was based on National Audit Office (NAO) study that the trust itself had commissioned. "The trust is committed to ensuring value for money for licence fee payers. That's why we have commissioned a series of such studies from the NAO and others."


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