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Delivering efficiences whilst prioritising our most valued output

The BBC has just completed its fourth year with the colour licence fee at £145.50 and is in the middle of delivering a major efficiency project, Delivering Quality First (DQF), which is on track to deliver an annual total of £700million in annual recurrent savings. Staff across the BBC continue to work hard to deliver these efficiencies, which allows the BBC to fund a range of new obligations. This year has been one of a continued focus on successfully delivering efficiencies whilst ensuring our most creative outputs are prioritised.

In 2013/14, the BBC started to fund a number of new obligations from the licence fee, specifically Broadband rollout, S4C, Local TV and BBC Monitoring, at a combined cost of £250million. The delivery of the first £374million of the £700million DQF savings target has meant that these costs have been absorbed without the need to utilise the BBC’s cash balances. As a result we start 2014/15 in a strong position with sufficient cash reserves to fund the World Service (at an annual incremental funding requirement of £245million from 1 April 2014) without compromising the quality or range of our output.

The delivery of these savings has also given the BBC the foundation from which to make a number of key strategic decisions this year for our licence fee funded activities, targeting increased investment in the strategic priorities announced by the Director-General in October 2014.

A track record of delivering efficiences

DQF builds on the BBC’s long track record of successfully delivering savings and meeting efficiency targets. Across our Value For Money (2005-2008) and Continuous Improvement (CI) (2008-2013) programmes, we delivered nearly £1billion of real terms recurring savings, and these have already been reinvested in our content and essential infrastructure. This has been achieved whilst maintaining focus on the quality of services provided, optimising value for money rather than simply maximising savings in order to become the cheapest provider.

2012/13 was the first year of our DQF programme, which has an annual savings target of £700million by 2016/17. We planned to achieve a significant proportion of the savings by this year and progress has been made with audited savings of £374million delivered. We are on track to achieve the full £700million by 2016/17.

We are doing this by taking advantage of new technologies and ways of working to reduce costs, increasing commercial income, and addressing concerns around talent costs and top management pay and expenses.

In delivering our savings we have sought to protect our production activities as much as we can. We have found productivity savings through the reprocurement of key supplier deals, by improving our asset utilisation and by controlling talent spend. We have exited both Television Centre and our White City building. We have streamlined our facilities management workflows and invested in new systems and processes to deliver savings in our Finance division.

Enhancing and simplifying our governance structure

As an organisation, we have demonstrated that we are able to optimise our cost base and deliver against efficiency targets set, however, we need to go further in order to be confident that the BBC is a well-run organisation. We recognise that there have been failures in the past, such as the Digital Media Initiative (DMI) and in the level of some individual severance payments made to former executives and senior managers.

We have learned lessons from these and made changes to our governance structures and processes to deliver a simpler, more creative BBC. Since April, we have implemented a new way of working with the BBC Trust with a clearer definition of individual responsibilities. The Trust is now focussed on challenging the strategy for the BBC and making sure we are answerable to licence fee payers whilst the Executive takes full responsibility for the running of the BBC. This means a reduction in meetings with fewer, but more effective updates to the Trust and ensuring the Executive Board are the key decision makers.

In addition, we have simplified our meeting structures to streamline decision making and reduce bureaucracy. As an organisation, we will be much clearer on how decisions are made and who in the organisation is accountable for them.

We now have in place a cap of £150,000 on all severance payments and have also removed pay in lieu of notice in all but the most exceptional of circumstances. Dame Fiona Reynolds, our Senior Independent Director, has reviewed our severance deals and her findings have been published on the BBC website

Breakdown of UK PSB Group expenditure 2013/14

 2013/14 £m%2012/13 £m%
Service licences - direct content spend2,315612,44364
Other direct content spend913872
Property and technology27133578
Distribution21762226
Other infrastructure and support32593189
Licence fee collection costs10231113
Digital switchover7-571
Broadband rollout/S4C/Local TV2426--
Costs to fund other income23062326
Lease cost reclassified(81)(2)(82)(2)
Restructuring costs10-231
Pension deficit payments491491
Total3,7781003,817100

Future challenges

The delivery of efficiencies, both through the ongoing DQF programme and the historical CI programme, means we start 2014/15 in a strong position with sufficient cash reserves to meet our immediate obligations. As an organisation however, we face new competitive pressures in an evolving media landscape and structural change in audience behaviour, and this means the BBC’s strategic context is changing. We have set ourselves three overall goals to address these challenges and stay ahead of the trend:

  • „„innovating online
  • „„making the most creative content and
  • „„serving all our audience

This will enable us to continue to build on our track record of delivering savings pushing both efficiency and creativity as hard as we can. We must, however, be mindful that given our constraints and financial risks, these savings alone cannot fully fund the investments needed and consequently, difficult decisions in relation to scope reductions have to be made. The most significant of these is the proposed move of the BBC Three linear channel to an online platform only, which will be subject to a public consultation in 2014, as part of a public value test undertaken by the BBC Trust.

This year we have built on our impressive track record of delivering efficiencies whilst maintaining the production of outstanding programmes and services. The BBC is currently well placed to meet its targets as well as to continue to invest in its future."

Anne Bulford, Managing Director, BBC Finance & Operations

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