Friday, September 11, 2009

The thing that doesn't make sense about the BBC cutting money for "top talent"

Bruce Forsyth is the latest BBC star to announce that he's taken a pay cut. The explanation is the same as it was for Chris Moyles and Alan Davies. These are hard times.

There's nothing wrong with their action. It's the explanation that doesn't make sense. In this climate if you're running a commercial operation, or one that relies on conventional tax revenue, you're only too aware that times are hard. People running commercial media organisations are taking pay cuts because revenues are down. But I can't see why the BBC's revenues would be down. Their licence fee income is the same as it was pre-recession and - to their chagrin - much the same as it will be after. The only reason to cut Bruce Forsyth's fee now is because you can. And you could have done that before. But you didn't.


  1. Don't the BBC make a pretty hefty wedge from overseas sales of programming, though?

    I'd bet that stream is drying up noticably in the current downturn.

  2. That goes to BBC Worldwide, which makes about £100 million and continues to do very well indeed. Licence fee income is more than £3 billion.

  3. Presumably production costs are rising, just like everything else, though.

  4. Anonymous8:23 pm

    It's simply that in an economic climate where many people are struggling with the necessities it has become increasingly difficult to ask them as license fee payers to stomach funding extravagant fees.

  5. I had an interesting conversation with a staff BBC producer the other day.

    They were moaning that they had to give 1/3 of their department budget for programming directly to running the studios regardless if they needed the studio time or not.

    I suggested recouping this asset by reselling unused studio time to the independent sector.

    "Nope. We can't make money"

    I suspect if you started a website industry bods to swap OMG stories about how the BBC is run you'd get a lot of posts. (And it would be fuel for the Daily Mail for yonks.)

    And to keep this on thread - the BBC should be rolling in it at the mo as their income is fixed whilst labour costs are down.

  6. BBC income has been affected by the property crisis - Budgets had been based on consolidating the property portfolio - but now the sale of TVC (etc) will not raise what was originally planned ...

    and the story above about renting out spare studio space is total nonsense - BBC studios are now owned by and they're rented out to independents all the time ...

  7. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

    The expectation has shifted both for the talent and the paying public, so the BBC are taking the opportunity to reduce their cost base. Well, why not. I'd argue that they couldn't have done it before, because the atmosphere, environment, what have you, wasn't right for the stars and their agents to accept it. Now, whether they financially need to or not, the BBC suddenly find themselves able to influence the pay agenda, so they are doing so. It's good PR for the Corporation and the stars, and may be used as a forgiveness card to be played against past sins or as a credibility card for right now.

    I am reminded of The dear old Queen Mum, finally being able to look the East End in the face, because her house got bombed as well.

    A good question would be, what are the BBC doing with the money they are saving? Is it for a rainy year in about 2011 - 2012?

    I love the smell of corporate violence in the morning. Will the Premiership be able to follow suit? Probably not I'd guess. Too much international competetion still fuelled by silly money.

  8. Anonymous1:17 am

    The Beeb still has to buy stuff (IT kit, stationary etc etc) from external providers whose prices are going up at a time when the licence fee is not - hence less money left for programmes and with which to pay Jonathan Ross.

  9. The BBC is in a market - when others can afford to pay more the BBC has to (assuming it values the artists enough)- it's like the rights to the Premier League...

  10. Has the BBC cut star salaries, or has it just offered less when contracts have come up for renewal, reflecting the state of the market?