BBC trims costs but engagement dips


In keeping with its plan to rein in costs following the last licence fee settlement, the BBC has continued to keep expenditure under control according to the corporation's annual report for 2013/2014.

In a year in which it saw success from Andy Murray's triumph at Wimbledon and the 50th anniversary of Dr Who, the BBC revealed that 96% of the UK's population had used a BBC service every week during the year. On average, viewers watched 18.5 hours of BBC content per week, down year-on-year.

Crucially, and saving itself from the almost daily barrage of criticism from certain sections of the UK press, the BBC also saved £6 million on talent costs. It had saved £374 million per annum and that it was on track to achieve the £700 million savings required by 2016/17 as agreed by former Director General Mark Thompson. In all, the amount it spends on talent and total costs are down by 15% since 2008, when the current strategy was first introduced.

Further good news came in the form of solid underlying growth, and increased returns from commercial arm BBC Worldwide. The division showed that for 2013/2014, headline profit increased 0.7% to £157.4 million, and it had a record 15.1% profit margin on sales of £1.042 billion which were actually down 5.2% year-on-year at constant currency.

Commenting on the year's trading, current Director General Tony Hall said: "It's been a fantastic year for the BBC with 96% of the UK choosing to watch, listen or use BBC services, quite an achievement for any public service organisation. But I think we can do better and this year we've announced how we are going to change the BBC to produce more distinctive programmes, ensure the BBC truly reflects all of our audiences and provide even better value for money for the licence fee payer."

Added Diane Coyle, acting chair of the BBC Trust, the body set up to ensure that licence fee payers get optimum value for money: "This past year the BBC, led by its new Director General, has got back on its feet after a very bruising period and there have been numerous programme highlights. The BBC executive has made good progress on its priorities for the past 12 months, and we are expecting further progress in the next year on areas including further improvements in the variety and originality of programmes, value for money and serving an increasingly diverse UK."