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BBC told to 'get value from major events' - 28-January-2010, 20:06

BBC told to 'get value from major events'

Thursday, January 28 2010,

A National Audit Office (NAO) report has called on the BBC to improve the way it commissions coverage of music and sporting events to ensure it always gets value for money.
Published today by the BBC Trust, the NAO's independent report found that the majority of major events on the BBC during 2008/9 were well managed, but there is still room for improvement going forward.
In its consultation, the NAO examined BBC coverage of six events - The Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, the 2008 UEFA European Football Championship, the 2008 Wimbledon Championships, the BBC Proms 2008, Glastonbury 2008 and Radio 1's Big Weekend 2008.
The report found that five of the six events finished under budget or within 1% of their budget, although Radio 1's Big Weekend came in 5% over at 888,000.
In 2008/9, the BBC spent 246 million on acquiring rights to sporting and music events, followed by 111 million on production and broadcasting of those events for TV, radio and online platforms.
In a survey, the NOA discovered that 71% of the public awarded the BBC eight out of ten or higher for its coverage of the Euro 2008 tournament, compared to just 44% for ITV.
However, the report criticised the way the BBC commissions coverage of major events, which often goes ahead without properly working out the cost-benefit ratio of a wider variety of options.
The NAO claimed that the BBC often limits its ability to make "informed judgements" about the effective use of funds, which in turn makes it difficult to assess whether value for money has actually been secured.
The report also criticised the BBC for not having a clear view of its total events budget, with separate budgets being drawn up for each media platform. It further criticised the way that costs of using top talent for the events were often buried in long-term contracts rather than a total cost overview.
A lack of BBC internal benchmarking for cost comparison was further pegged as an issue, with the NAO calling for proper identification of suitable events for comparison and then regular reviews to be conducted.
In response, the Trust found that the majority of NAO recommendations have already been implemented by the BBC. However, BBC management must now provide a firm action plan to address all the remaining issues.
"While covering high-profile sports and music events is a core part of the BBC's job - and, as this report notes, the BBC's work in this area is valued by millions of listeners and viewers - the Trust is emphatic that value for money must be delivered in this area, as is essential across the BBC," said BBC Trustee Jeremy Peat.
"The report finds that the BBC has succeeded in coming in very close to or under budget for all but one of the major events considered. But it is also clear that there are areas for improvement, particularly with regard to approval and post-event review processes.
"The Trust notes that the Executive has already implemented many of the NAO's recommendations, but there is still more to do and we will review progress on a regular basis in the context of the action plan that we have asked the Executive to produce."
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, added: "Given the current economic conditions, the BBC has not done enough to demonstrate that its coverage provides the best possible value for money.
"When the BBC decides that it wants to cover a major sporting or music event, it should carefully explore a range of options, and set down clear objectives against which it can measure its achievements after the event. Without that, the BBC will not convince licence fee payers that their money has been well spent."
   
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