Spiralling BBC legal fees leave licence fee payers out of pocket

Over the last 10 years, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has spent at least £18,580,040 in legal costs – absorbing the revenue extracted from 129,553 license fee payers

by The Commentator on 21 November 2012 12:54


Within the last 10 years, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has spent at least £18,580,040 in legal costs – absorbing the revenue extracted from 129,553 licence fee payers – on claims made against the state broadcaster. This figure does not include money spent using in-house lawyers.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request by The Commentator has revealed several figures regarding BBC payments in out-of-court settlements, employment tribunal claims, litigation claims, and the number of times the corporation has been sued.

Between April 1st 2005 and November 2nd 2012, the BBC spent £2,893,492 in legal costs as part of employment tribunal claims brought against the corporation.

Over five years, 136 claimants lodged 146 industrial tribunal and employment tribunal claims against the BBC. Since January 2008 and up to the end of October 2012, the BBC has been sued 60 times, according to the BBC's litigation database figures.

The BBC has also spent £1,745,460 in out-of-court settlements over the same period. The figure represents sums paid under settlement agreements including settlement payments to claimants and any legal fees paid on behalf of claimants.

On litigation claims, the BBC has spent a total of £11,836,775 during the financial years April 1st 2003 to October 31st 2012. This figure includes court costs, legal fees, fines, and charges that the BBC has had to pay to external claimants. The BBC legal fees include the cost of external counsel and solicitors instructed for the BBC, but do not include the cost of in-house solicitors.

The Commentator can also reveal that the BBC has paid out £2,104,332 in out-of-court litigation settlements over the last five years.

The total figure incurred by the BBC will be significantly higher than £18.5million over the full 10 year period. In most cases, sums released to The Commentator by the BBC refer to a period of five years and seven months.

Following the Jimmy Savile child abuse allegations and the Newsnight ‘cover up’ scandal, the institution is under severe pressure with likely further legal action and costs on the horizon.

Lawyers at the BBC have said that the BBC could also face a multi-million pound compensation claim from victims of alleged sexual abuse by the former Top of the Pops presenter.

Just last week, the BBC agreed to pay Lord McAlpine £185,000 in damages over a claim which led to him being wrongly implicated in child abuse. Meanwhile, the on-going Nick Pollard inquiry – into the BBC’s decision to abort last year’s Newsnight investigation – has hired Alan Maclean QC who previously represented former Prime Minister Tony Blair and political aide Alistair Campbell during the Hutton Inquiry and can charge anything between £500 to £1,000 an hour.

Licence fee payers will likely be incensed by this latest revelation, as it emerges that the BBC is, more and more, utilising the licence fee to fight costly legal battles. 

Earlier this year, The Commentator exclusively revealed that the BBC has so far spent at least £332,000 withholding the Balen Report from the public.

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