How the licence fee supports UK jobs and businesses
When we pay our licence fee, or see the direct debit on our bank statement the first thing we often think about is what we get in return. I hope you would agree with me that the breadth and depth of quality programmes and services the BBC provides are good value for money at less than 40p per day.
Providing ever higher quality programmes and services is our core mission and where we are focussing the BBC more than ever before. But when you add up the cumulative impact and spending power of all those licence fees, something extra is going on, there are wider benefits for jobs and businesses too.
The BBC directly employs over 17,000 staff ranging form producers to journalists, to lighting and sound technicians to orchestral performers. Outside of the BBC we also employ many freelance actors and presenters, and many more people in large and small businesses ranging from independent production companies, to set and web design agencies. As these companies grow and invest a multiplier effect spreads through their local economy and across the UK.
By meeting our mission to make great programmes and content the BBC also delivers broader benefits to the digital and creative industries, which in turn spill over into the wider economy.
A new report published today seeks to measure this positive economic impact and the results are quite striking. In 2009/10 the BBC contributed well over £8bn (£8,170m) gross value to the UK economy. This is 5.6 per cent higher than the £7.7bn contributed last year. That is well over £2 of economic value for every £1 invested in the licence fee.
To test the robustness of this analysis, we modelled an advertising-funded BBC to find the specific value attributable to the licence fee. This model estimated net value added at over £5bn (£5,087m), 14.9 per cent above last year’s £4.4bn. The report shows we have been spreading the economic benefits further. (The report covers 2009/10 when the licence fee rose by just 2 per cent. The licence fee has since been frozen to 2016/17).
These big increases show us that when times are tough in the economy the licence fee is an important force for stability in an otherwise volatile sector. For small businesses and independent producers the security of BBC funding sometimes over many years can be key to their success.
And looking around the UK there has been strong progress too, as we began to increase production in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland through programmes like The Review Show, Torchwood and Occupation the economic benefits from these nations has increased significantly by 7.5 per cent 17.9 per cent and 5.7 per cent respectively.
This evidence signals that our move to Salford Quays in the coming months will help build a more thriving creative sector in the North of England. And that growth hasn’t been to the detriment of London or the South where thanks to BBC Worldwide in particular our increased commercial success has also boosted economic activity and returned profits back into programme making.
So it’s clear that whilst our drive to serve and reflect the whole of the UK is to make real editorial gains – better programmes that reflect people’s lives on screen, we can also support the creative industries right across the UK. If the BBC wasn’t supporting and sustaining jobs in Glasgow, Salford, Bristol and London then the British nation would be poorer both in our wallets, and for the quality of programmes we enjoy.
This report, which we will repeat every two years, will help the BBC to support UK jobs and businesses in future. With the licence fee now frozen at £145.50 for the next six years we need to think innovatively about how we continue to maximise the value of our investment, and we aim to maintain provision of £2 benefit for every £1 of licence fee going forward.
So next time I see my licence fee debit on my bank statement I’ll remember that it is not just paying for my favourite programmes – it’s a £300 plus force for good in Britain’s economy too.
Caroline Thompson is the BBC's Chief Operating Officer