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How the licence fee supports UK jobs and businesses

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Caroline Thomson Caroline Thomson | 09:00 UK time, Monday, 14 March 2011

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 ShowTorchwood 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 



Footnote on methodology:
The report assesses the economic impact of the BBC in the UK, both directly through 
immediate expenditures on people, infrastructure and services as well as more widely through 
consequential effects both in the creative sector and beyond. Our assessment includes the 
BBC’s activities and expenditure across both public service and commercial activities and a 
variety of areas such as content, distribution, publishing, sales and marketing as well as 
infrastructure and overheads. It does not currently include the activities of the BBC World 
Service and BBC Monitoring.


  • Comment number 1.

    Before the pro Sky and anti BBC brigade post their comments could I ask that they do their research into the amount of production that Sky funds in the UK and how this compares with revenue?

    Please may we also have no unresearched comments about advertising funded broadcasters like ITV. We all pay for them as well through nearly everything we buy.

  • Comment number 2.

    Here is some idea's
    One actor or announcer per programme, ie Jeremy Vine's should be on one BBC programme only .Why are there so few people employed on some many TV and radio shows , wheres the new talent on shows .Jeremy great on he's show ,payed hansomely for doing it, well over the BBC's average earnings.So lets have more people employed on one contract,one show .Steve Wright seems to live happerly on he's BBC contract.
    We are told that there only 6% of actors being employed,at any one time,or maybe 94% of the talent is really hopeless or it's too hard to find any more.
    ie; John Sim one of todays great actors ,he will find work anywhere, The BBC will employ John on a contract of say £80,000 for a series or £80,000 per year on a two year or ten years contract on Eastenders say,So for three months work on a series he gets twice the average earnings and then if the average earning at the BBC are £40,000 per year he will not be used for the next two years or longer if he'd earned £800,000.
    This shouldn't not cost any more ,but it would employ far more actors, spredding the BBC'S and our money too many more people.
    If it's our BBC it should be all our talents being used.


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