BBC distribution is 'good value for money'

Diane Coyle Diane Coyle: Arrangements are in place for future

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The cost of getting BBC content to audiences represents 'good value for money', concludes a new report.

And it is comparable to the outlay by other broadcasters, relative to income.

Mediatique - commissioned by the BBC Trust to carry out a review of BBC broadcast and online distribution - also commended the 'routinely high calibre' of staff supporting distribution activities as well as the clear approach that was in place to deal with future challenges in this area.

The corporation spent £233m in the last financial year distributing content to tv, radio and online audiences - a figure representing 6.5% of the licence fee. This was well below the 10% ceiling set by the BBC, the report noted.

Lower online costs

The percentage of income spent on broadcast distribution was also 'in line' with that paid out by BskyB and ITV and less than that spent by Channel 4 and Channel 5, the media consultancy added.

The cost of online distribution, meanwhile, was 'significantly lower' per user than for commercial counterparts due to 'sound cost management' at the BBC and the benefits of scale resulting from the popularity of its on-demand services.

All these costs, the report pointed out, should be viewed in light of the BBC's obligations to make its services universally available, free to air and delivered in the ways audiences desire.

'The BBC must provide audiences everywhere with the content that they love in the ways that they want it, innovating and adapting to the changing technological landscape and to audience demands,' said BBC Trust vice chairman Diane Coyle.

'This report shows that the BBC is doing just that while providing good value for money for licence fee payers, with arrangements in place to ensure that it continues to fulfil its distribution commitments in the future.'

Review YouView stake

Mediatique did recommend that the BBC reviews its investments in Freeview, Freesat and YouView (which is often sold as part of pay tv subscriptions) in light of its duty to promote free to air content.

And the consultants called for more transparent reporting of distribution costs, with the total figure - including any contribution to YouView - expressed as a percentage of the licence fee in the annual report. Periodic benchmarking of costs against commercial counterparts was also recommended.

Broadcast and online distribution are handled by separate teams at the BBC. BBC Distribution in Technology, Distribution and Archive look after the former, while Future Media's Business Development, Programmes on Demand and Online Technology Group run online distribution.

But the report questioned why only online distribution had a representative on the management board, suggesting that this disparity should be addressed.

With its current distribution arrangements given a clean bill of health by the report, the BBC was also considered to be well placed to face the future.

The Corporation was 'aware of key challenges' - such as the potential for distribution costs to rise as online consumption increases while tv viewing remains popular - and had 'clear policies' around how it would respond, said the report.

Alix Pryde, director of distribution, said: 'I'm really pleased that this independent review has commended the high calibre of BBC Distribution staff and the good value for money they deliver for licence fee payers.

'It shows the power of a multi-disciplinary team taking a holistic approach to get the best possible performance from our suppliers.'

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