BBC Chairman Hires Ernst & Young for Fiscal Probe

13 August 2004

Amid denials that he expects to uncover any serious underlying financial problems, the BBC's new chairman Michael Grade has hired US accountancy firm Ernst & Young to probe the state-owned corporation's financial controls.

The move follows what Grade calls "general and specific" criticisms about the BBC's financial control systems. "It's about efficiency," he insisted. "It's about financial controls. It only needs one rogue in any organisation to bring the place into disrepute."

The corporation is at present in deficit to the tune of more than £100 million ($182.1m; €148.97m), a situation it prefers to describe as "planned borrowing". There is also a £400m pension scheme shortfall [a problem shared with many other major corporations and institutions].

While many are trying to second-guess the outcome of the E&Y review, the one certainty seems to be that it will trigger a painful cost-cutting programme.

Even if this isn't necessary for financial reasons, it is an act of savvy political expediency in the run-up to the government's review of the BBC's Royal Charter, due for renewal in 2006. And Grade's commercial acumen and legendary programming skills are eclipsed by his political dexterity.

But why call in an outside firm instead of extant auditor KPMG to count the Beeb's beans? Speaking to The Independent newspaper, Grade said: "I want some outside comfort that our systems are fit for their purpose. I've heard criticism."

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff