BBC Blasted over Digital Spending Boost

18 July 2002

The British Broadcasting Corporation is under fire from MPs and broadcasting rivals as new figures show it boosted spending on digital services by over 40% last year.

In its annual report, the publicly funded BBC reveals it spent £278 million ($435m; €433m) in the twelve months to March 31, with internet expenditure alone rising from £52m the year before to £100m.

The findings are bound to infuriate commercial rivals with similar digital ambitions, such as Channel 4 and pay-TV firms, which have been held back by the decline in ad revenues.

Further criticism came from the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee when it grilled BBC executives. Chairman Gerald Kaufman has attacked the corporation before for using public money to provide services already catered for by the commercial sector, especially as digital TV channels attract few viewers.

“This is an astonishingly large figure to spend on channels which are hardly watched at all,” blasted committee member and Conservative MP Julie Kirkbride. “If the BBC is going to continue to increase spending on digital, we are going to have to see a real increase in the number of its digital viewers.”

Other bones of contention in the report include the £180m boost to programming the BBC plans for the current year and the bonuses totalling over £1m paid to the corporation’s senior executives. Indeed, as furious committee members pointed out, several Beeb bosses earned more than the prime minister.

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff