Auntie’s misbehaving: Make the BBC accountable

Eyes will be on the north west of London next week when the Bilderberg party comes to town. But a greater conspiracy is how we allow behemoths like the BBC to be so unaccountable

Simon Miller
On 1 June 2013 13:55

There is a party in Hertfordshire next week, for all the great and good, that will have conspiracy theorists salivating. Personally, I am not one for conspiracies; incompetence, mission creeps, cock-ups, the law of unintended consequences – yes. But deliberate conspiracies? Not for me.

Oh sure, there are probably agreements made away from pesky prying eyes and such things like accountability, but, pedantic though it may be, if you know about it then there cannot be a conspiracy.

For a conspiracy to work, especially in this day and age, the state broadcaster has to be fit for purpose – unfortunately for the NWO the UK has the BBC.

The BBC is a powerful beast with a lot of money coming into its coffers thanks to the law. In its latest available figures, licence fee income grew by £93m in 2012 to £3.6bn, with other income bringing in £1.5bn for a total income of £5.09bn. Take away pension reforms and the sale of BBC Worldwide’s magazine business and the BBC saw an operating surplus of £249m.

The breakdown per channel shows £1.3bn spent on BBC 1 and £537.1m on BBC2. Switching to the digital channels, taste permits me to say that a shocking £112.9m was spent on that wasteland of dreadful ‘yoof’ content on BBC3. Meanwhile, the channel I would like BBC 2 to be more like, BBC4, gets a relatively paltry £67.8m. As an aside, BBC Alba, which is watched by no one, gets £8m.

And then there’s staff and ‘talent’.

Despite 384 less members of staff, the BBC still employs 16,858 individuals. And despite recognising that many licence fee payers are subject to pay freezes and job losses, staff earning less than £60,000 at the BBC still got pay rises of 2 percent in the 2011 pay deal.

Actually, the BBC is quite good compared to other public organisations in that it looks like it is genuinely trying to get rid of expensive staff, with 156 senior members of staff gone and another 70 posts planned to be gone by 2015 – although how many will set up companies to be ‘consulted’ by the Beeb remains to be seen.

That said, it still has 306 senior members of staff being paid between £70,000 and £129,000 a year and 47 being paid up to £219,999.

And like most public organisations, I have a sneaking suspicion that those that are really needed – the frontline – are underrepresented in the pay stakes. Like the MoD – which has forgotten that you need soldiers and equipment not generals, admirals and policy wonks – or the NHS – where the concept of nurses seem to escape the management – it would be interesting to see a full breakdown of where staff are employed by the BBC. I suspect production, make-up, cameras etc. may be outnumbered by diversity, human resources and, of course, legal.

You may be surprised to hear that I actually have a lot of time for the BBC.

Despite its Guardianistic, yoghurt-weaving view of the world, the work down on digital, its iPlayer platform, and the occasional output is fantastic. But considering whose money it is spending, its incompetence can really take the biscuit.

In its rush to embrace the future, the BBC did what most public organisations did and listened to consultants pitching for its digital handover project. The resulting chaos has been clear to see with £100m – basically the cost of local radio that has seen its budget slashed over the last few years - washed down the drain for nothing.

The problem with this behemoth, like the NHS, is that money is guaranteed. As it grew into this monster that pervades most walks of our lives, online and off, accountability disappeared. Granted the chief technology officer has been suspended (on full pay) but when has the BBC genuinely ever been accountable to those that pay for it – us?

Cameramen who work at the BBC have told me that it has HD and 3D-ready studios at White City, which it is trying to sell. As a result, when it moves back in to rent studios there, it will have to spend yet more money putting back what was already in place. Madness.

Last week I pointed out (once again) that politicians fail to understand that it is our money that they are playing with, not theirs. And the same applies to the BBC.

Thanks to the dominance it has built up, aided and abetted by a state through the TV tax, the BBC has grown to such an extent that it can throw away £100m in failed IT projects with relative disdain. In a commercial organisation, the heads would roll. But, like the Civil Service, accountability can be shortcoming at the BBC.

How and why was that allowed to happen? Perhaps that’s where the conspiracy really lies.

Simon Miller is a contributing editor to The Commentator. Follow him on Twitter @simontm71

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