Rivals Try to Force BBC Radio Budgets Probe

14 November 2005

UK commercial radio stations are attempting to force an investigation into BBC programme budgets, citing a right to do so under the UK's Freedom of Information Act.

But the publicly funded BBC refuses to reveal its financial data, claiming it is not legally obliged to do so under the 2000 FoI Act, and that the information is commercially sensitive.

The Commercial Radio Companies Association's complaint to information commissioner Richard Thomas seems timed to cause maximum harassment to the BBC as it negotiates with the government an increase in its licence fee. It seeks a rise in line with inflation plus 2.3% [WAMN: 12-Oct-05].

Says CRCA ceo Paul Brown: "The justification for that [rise] has to be extreme and gives us good reason to see how much it is spending and on what ... It is difficult to justify if we don't know how much the BBC spends."

Counters the BBC: "We are not a commercial company but we operate in a commercial environment, so there are limits to what we can say. [Unveiling the budgets] would also reveal the BBC's strategy to its competitors."

Commercial radio has struggled this year to capture audience share. Figures for the last quarter, ended September, were 43.5%. To add to the gloom advertising revenues are also sluggish.

The BBC, on the other hand, gained a record 54.6% of the UK audience in the three months to September.

Data sourced from MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff