Thursday, March 06, 2014

Factsmackdown: Is Radio 3 more expensive than BBC Three?

With BBC Three the latest service from the corporation to be led to the knackers' yard, there's a little campaign growing to close Radio 3 instead, on the basis that it has a smaller audience and is pretty expensive, too.

Is that fair?

Well, BBC Three costs £121.7million a year; BBC Radio 3, £54.3million. So if you're looking for a cost-saving measure, the TV station potentially saves more.

And if you take into account that Radio 3 has to support orchestras and the Proms out of its budget, while BBC Three is spending a chunk buying not-as-good-as-King-Of-The-Hill American cartoons, you might start to look at the value for money proposition here slightly differently. (I know, it's unfair to put the Late Junction sessions up against Seth MacFarlane and ask 'where would YOU spend the money', but that's pretty much what the 'close Radio 3 instead' campaign is doing already.)

Ah, but Radio 3 is enjoyed by far fewer people than BBC Three. (Judging by letters to Feedback and the Radio Times, Radio 3 might not actually be enjoyed by anyone.)

So, who is more expensively serviced?

Radio 3's annual £54.3m is spent pleasing an audience 2.2 million. That's £24.60 a person.

BBC Three's annual £121.7m brings delight to 13.2million. That's £9.21 a person.

On this measure, BBC Three is much, much cheaper.

Okay, classical music heads, I can hear you murmuring that a large chunk of that BBC Three audience is just tuning in for the EastEnders repeat.

And that 13.2million suggests that a portion of the audience tuning in are from outside the slice of 'young people who otherwise would be having sex or doing computer games or doing computer games in which they pretend to be having sex' that the channle is supposedly targeting.

But, on the broad measure of happy person per pound, BBC Three is much better value than Radio 3.

Game over?

Not quite. Because a Radio 3 listener listens for six hours and 25 minutes a week; a BBC Three viewer only watches for one hour 47 minutes every week.

Multiply this up over the course of a year, and you get BBC Three costing 0.17p per minute of audience engagement.

BBC Radio 3 costs 0.12p per minute of audience engagement.

In other words, the two channels, arguably at different ends of the BBC waterfront cost roughly the same, and it's peanuts, but depending on when you want to stop doing division you could argue that either is more expensive.

[Sources: About the BBC audience information, January-March 2013; BBC Annual Report expenditure 2013]


mrdiscopop said...

There's an official BBC breakdown of cost per listener / viewer here:

It essentially backs up your point. The audience for both channels get almost exactly the same value for money.

Graeme said...

Also forgetting that BBC Three only runs for 9 hours, not 24.

I'm nearly 50 and almost never listen to Radio 3 - I'm more Radio 2 - but probably watch BBC Three and Four regularly.

The50footqueenie said...

Not a hope in hell of them closing Radio 3 - even if it cost more than Trident - the ruling classes of middle Englandshire would rise up as one and pester their Tory MPs to burn down the BBC lefties.

I quite like Radio 3 actually, for the record. Better than 'Baroque FM' by a mile.

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

Graeme - good point about broadcast hours; perhaps more relevant to comparing performance of BBC Three compared with similar services that broadcast all day like E4.

You could look at it that, BBC Three viewers, on average, consume about 2% of available content on the channel, while Radio 3 listeners consumer just under 4% of the available content.

But then again a lot of BBC Three is second and third broadcasts... hmmm....

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

Mr Discopop - it's not clear if the figures for BBC Three there cover the Olympic period, where the station broadcast for more hours and had a different remit...

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