BBC coverage spend comes under fire

29 January 2010

29 January 2010 | Carly Chynoweth

The BBC is not doing enough to show it is providing value for money when covering major events such as the 2008 Olympic Games and Glastonbury.

The National Audit Office (NAO) review, commissioned by the BBC Trust, found the corporation lacked a clear view of the total budget for coverage of individual events.

It also used “only limited and informal internal benchmarking to compare the costs and production process of recurring and similar major sporting and music events”.

The NAO criticised the BBC’s lack of process around the intended benefits of its coverage. “When the BBC commissions coverage of events and approves budgets it does not identify intended benefits or carry out a formal cost-benefit consideration of a range of coverage options,” it said.

“This limits its ability to make informed judgments about its use of funds. By not setting out what the intended benefits are, and not carrying out systematic reviews, it is difficult for the BBC to assess the success of its coverage and the value for money it has secured.”

The corporation, which spent £357 million on the rights for and coverage of all its sporting and music events in the 2008-09 financial year, went over budget in its coverage of Wimbledon. It was unable to find the paperwork showing that the budgets for Wimbledon, Euro 2008 and the Beijing Olympics were approved at divisional level. However, it did come in at or under budget for five of the six major events studied.

“Millions of people enjoy the coverage of major sporting and music events provided by the BBC,” said NAO head Amyas Morse.

“But, particularly given the current economic conditions, the BBC has not done enough to demonstrate that its coverage provides the best possible value for money. When the BBC decides that it wants to cover a major sporting or music event, it should carefully explore a range of options, and set down clear objectives against which it can measure its achievements after the event. Without that, the BBC will not convince licence-fee payers that their money has been well spent.”

The report concluded that, overall, the BBC has taken action to improve these issues. The BBC Trust has now asked directors to produce a timetable demonstrating when the remaining NAO recommendations will be addressed.

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