2 Minimising the
impact on the licence fee payer |
7. For the savings delivered by the BBC to count
as genuine efficiencies, the BBC needs to know that they have
not adversely affected performance.
Over the course of its efficiency programme the BBC has monitored
over 50 different audience measures covering the range of services
it provides and compared them to their level in 2007-08.
Although some of these measures have, at times, fallen significantly
below their 2007-08 levels, it is not the same measures or services
that are underperforming each time. The BBC told us it takes action
when it sees the performance of a service declining. It had, for
example, spent more on children's programmes in response to a
fall in performance measures.
8. The BBC acknowledged that, even with all the
work it does to monitor its performance, it does not fully understand
whether savings have affected the quality of its services - because
of the difficulty of isolating the impact of the many factors
that can affect quality.
In future the BBC will be making cuts as well as delivering efficiency
savings and so it is far more likely that the quality of services
will be affected.
The BBC agreed with the need for absolute clarity over the distinction
between what is defined and reported as an efficiency saving and
what is a cut.
9. There are hard choices to be made about where
cuts should fall. However, to underpin its current efficiency
programme, the BBC did not use a detailed analysis of the costs
and benefits of what it produces to support its decisions about
where to make savings.
Such analysis will be vital to make sure that the BBC does not
make ill-advised cuts to lower cost services that may be of relatively
higher value to the public.
The BBC recognised that, due to the high fixed costs in smaller
services such as local radio, cuts are "deeper" in terms
of what they might mean for reductions in numbers of staff.
We questioned how the BBC compares the value of spending money
on local radio, where the total budget in 2010-11 was £147
million, with spending on BBC1, where the corresponding budget
was £1.4 billion.
In making comparisons the BBC claimed it tries to "analyse
the net public value of each service and relate that to expenditure".
10. The BBC told us it has a number of ways of
gauging public opinion on the value of its services. The BBC Trust
runs four national audience councils and the BBC itself tracks
public attitudes through surveys and gains insights from correspondence
received. As well
as measuring its performance against its public value indicators
of Reach, Quality, Impact and Value, the BBC is also interested
in whether its services are original.
The BBC acknowledged, however, that it needs to continue to develop
how it analyses its performance to recognise the changing ways
that people access the BBC's services.
11. Sometimes the value licence fee payers place
on the BBC's services is linked to the extent to which there are
credible alternatives. For example, the service provided by many
local radio stations, based around news, information and speech,
is often very different from that provided by the commercial alternatives.
It is unclear how such considerations factor into the BBC's thinking
about where cuts should fall.
The BBC has, however, put its proposals for further savings out
to public consultation and has in the past shown a willingness
to reverse its plans in the face of public opinion, for example
in the case of Radio 6 Music.
The Director General was clear to us that he does not want "to
preside over the decline of England's local radio".
In January 2012, the BBC Trust published an interim report on
the BBC's savings plans. In this report the BBC Trust recognised
the value placed on local radio by its audience, and called for
the BBC to scale back the proposed cuts to local radio.
15 C&AG's Report, para 1.25 Back
C&AG's Report, para 1.27 Back
Qq 21-23 Back
Q 49 Back
Qq 67-68 Back
Q 67 Back
Q 31 Back
C&AG's Report, para 2.9 Back
Q 27 Back
Qq 30-32 Back
Qq 24-25, 39 Back
Q 35 Back
Qq 37-38 Back
Qq 40, 44 Back
Qq 24-27 Back
Q 40 Back
BBC Trust report: Delivering Quality First, Interim Findings,
January 2012 Back