BBC STAFF HEADCOUNT ‘FALLS BY JUST 2 PER CENT’: Freddy Mayhew (Press Gazette 30/7) reported that despite the BBC spending £500m in severance pay and restructuring costs in the past 11 years, the headcount had shrunk from 22,874 to 22,401 – only two per cent. He said the Corporation’s annual reports showed that the BBC had been engaged in ‘constant drives to cut back on staff numbers’, including in 2009, a pledge to reduce its headcount by 10 percent (1,800 posts) and in 2017 to cut 2,600 jobs to make £750 million in savings. He quoted a BBC spokesman: “As ever, our staffing numbers and redundancy figures don’t tell the full story here.
“During this time, the Government awarded the BBC a grant as part of the biggest expansion of the World Service since the 1940s, we launched the BBC Scotland channel and developed our digital services, all of which could not have happened without taking on staff according to our changing business needs. We have also taken a value for money approach to contracts by bringing resources and some teams in-house whilst reducing the number of back office and support roles. As such, an independent report by Ernst & Young found the BBC among the most efficient 25% regulated and non-profit organisations in the UK.”
NEWSNIGHT ‘NONSENSE’ ABOUT LOCKDOWN ANNOUNCEMENT: Guido Fawkes claimed (31/7) that BBC Newsnight policy editor Lewis Goodall had been responsible for spreading the ‘nonsense’ doing the rounds that health secretary Matt Hancock had announced the new North-west semi-lockdown via his personal Twitter account. The article asserted that the imposition of new measures was actually released by the department of health in a pooled television interview. It dismissed the idea picked up in some newspapers that the measure was designed to be ‘anti-Eid’.
BBC IS NOW ‘STUBBORN PET SHOP OWNER SELLING DEAD PARROT’: Joe Ventre (Taxpayers’ Alliance blog 30/7) argued that the BBC – in demanding that the licence fee should be retained – was selling the equivalent of a ‘dead parrot’ by pretending its services had unique value in a television environment which now contained rivals such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Mr Ventre argued that the licence fee, which was being defended on the same terms as 35 years ago despite a massive explosion of choice, should be replaced by subscription funding. He stated:
‘When arguments around content inevitably fall away, Auntie’s admirers will turn to the supposedly unbiased and accountable nature of the broadcaster. Leaving spurious claims of impartiality aside, the fact of the matter is that the BBC leaves much to desire when it comes to transparency. Unlike most public bodies, the Beeb is granted special exemptions from the Freedom of Information Act (2000). This means that taxpayers have no recourse for finding out how much of their money is spent on material used in creative content. We’ve previously covered this topic when news broke of Holby City holding (and subsequently donating) real ventilators to fighting coronavirus. One issue with trying to find out if the BBC offers value for money is it won’t tell you how it’s spending the money!’