Thursday, February 05, 2009

Surprisingly, Radio 2 spends more on breakfast than Popplewell FM

The National Audit Office has released some not-entirely-illuminating figures about the costs of BBC Radio:

The NAO found that the "bulk" of programme costs consisted of staff remuneration.

On breakfast shows, 77 per cent of staff costs related to presenters. On drive-time programmes, the proportion was 79 per cent.

Radio 2's "Wake Up To Wogan" was found to be up to seven times more expensive than commercial rivals to make while Radio 1's "The Chris Moyles Show" was up to four times more costly.

The report also found that music programmes on Radio 2 were 54 per cent more expensive than those on Radio 1 and more than double the cost of those on Radio 3.

Given that most radio programmes don't pay out for their recorded music costs, is the NAO really expressing surprise that most of the budget for the show goes on the person who does the talking bits? Isn't this rather like finding out a bakery spends rather a lot on flour?

And, yes, you would imagine that a programme which features Wogan and a team, or Moyles and a team, might end up paying more for those names than unnamed commercial "rivals" - would anyone really, seriously, expect Radio 2 to be spending the same on their breakfast show as, say, what-used-to-be-Milton-Keynes-Horizon FM?
The independent watchdog said the BBC had found £11.7 million of efficiency savings in the three years to March 2008, more than its £11.6 million target.

But it said more needed to be done to assess the impact of such savings on output. The corporation should compare costs with commercial stations.

But why? I can see the argument for the BBC being as efficient as possible, but does it actually follow that they should be setting their budgets to meet the less-strenuous commercial output? After all, it's a safe bet that Rob DaBank's show costs a lot more than whatever it is Heart are putting out at the same time on Monday morning, but if you were going to cut the costs of Da Bank's show to match those of Heart, you'd also have to cut the interviews, the sessions, and probably a fair chunk of the time Da Bank spends putting the programme together. Comparing a BBC Radio programme's costs to an ILR one simply because they happen to be on the air at the same time is a ridiculous way of working; if the National Audit Office want to sound better than idiotic when investigating licence-fee value for money, they might want to think a little more about what you get for the money spent, rather than simply the amount spent.

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