BBC website suits slapped for cash splurge
Toys taken away
The BBC Trust has today sharply criticised BBC executives for poor management of online services after an investigation of the finances of bbc.co.uk revealed it was £36m over-budget.
The review by the Corporation's independent governing body, which represents licence fee payers, revealed the splurge on bbc.co.uk hit £110m in the year to March 2008. The agreed budget had been £81.6m.
BBC executives forecast in January they would exceed the budget by 5 per cent. The true figure was 48 per cent.
The Trust wrote in its report (pdf): "Management control of bbc.co.uk is not sufficiently strong at present. Our review has found that financial oversight has not been sufficiently effective, such that the true level of spending on the service has only become known as a result of this review."
It said that most of the missing millions was the result of "misallocation of general overheads and costs from other budgets". Actual overspend was £3.5m. The figures exclude spending on iPlayer. The Trust has ordered suits to come up with proposals to gain control of the budget within six months.
BBC management's arcane devolved structure also made it hard to discern the online strategy, the Trust said, and executives must be clearer in their dealings with industry and trustees. A reorganisation of bbc.co.uk management in 2007 "has resulted in bbc.co.uk being treated more as a platform than as a discreet [sic] service... we believe it right to highlight this finding given the great importance we attach to the question of accountability."
Reponsibility for bbc.co.uk falls on Ashley Highfield, the BBC's director of future media and technology. He is already on his way out, however, and is set to jump ship later this year to Project Kangaroo, a commercial version of the iPlayer.
The Trust set a £114.4m budget for bbc.co.uk, this time including £3.9m for iPlayer. It decided to withold approval for new online projects by the BBC, however, until management put their house in order.
In its response statement, BBC management said: "We accept the Trust's conclusions that our processes and management controls were not adequate for a pan-BBC service straddling multiple cost centres. This is regrettable and we recognise the need to address this.
"We are developing plans which we believe will fully meet the concerns raised in the report... we will do this while ensuring that bbc.co.uk continues to be a distinctive service delivering strong public value."
The Trust also called on executives to consider the impact that throwing TV licence cash online is having on commercial markets. It has asked them to respond to concerns that efforts such as online film reviews, health information and local news are redundant because they are well served by commercial providers. ®
bbc needs to get to grips and be back in the real world
Daniel said it all, the fact they managed to spend over 100 million pounds on a website and still do a bad job of it is appalling, they clearly have no sense of getting value for money because they know the money will keep coming through compulsary payments. The bbc is funded wrong for the following reasons.
1 - It is unfair on the low paid.
2 - It is unfair on those who would not choose to use the bbc if they had the choice of not paying for it.
3 - it is unfair on competing channels.
As for comparing uk to usa tv, most of my favourite all time shows are american, buffy, angel, lost, 24, rome (part bbc), prison break. Whilst here its all soaps and reality tv.
i just hope that when they are accused of damaging commercial sites, they only have to consider UK based sites for UK organisations that pay tax in the UK.
frankly if the BBC is 'competing' with some US based site I don't care, or other European sites for that matter.
we pay for it, as a service to the uk population, the fact the rest of the world can see it is a bonus to them.
given most of the commercial companies are probably based outside the UK this shouldn't be a problem.
frankly I don't _care_ if the BBC competes with commercial sites, if they win they are presumably doing something better, or at least less annoying. if the commercial companies don't like it.. well they are meant to be more 'efficient' and should be able to wipe the floor with the BBC anyway.
@The Other Steve
Fair enough 140 quid is good for 8 channels. However, they're now 8 channels of shite.
Four. No need for more. Heck two and a bit would be OK.
BBC1 : News, Sport, drama, soap, etc. Fairly broad requirements, go for the larger market. Buy in stuff if welcome solid stuff. Don't bid too high, so many people get Sky et al too, so don't blow your pay there.
BBC2 : Educational, sidelined sports (lacrosse, crown green et al), new comedy, deeper drama and "news" sites that cover "what's new in science/business/technology/medicine" sort of things. Niche stuff that still cover a broad spectrum, filling in the gaps and going somewhat more highbrow.
BBC3 : Mini series, one-offs, theatre, opera, music, concerts, experimental, comedy. Some place to see what could be the next big thing. sell the ideas to other BBC channels or outside to bulk up the money available
BBC4 : Talking heads, politics, discussion shows. Really quite dull stuff but stuff needed nevertheless to be known (or at least available) to the public. Should still be pretty damn cheap.
2&3 could probably be merged and 4 may only be a half-day or half-week thing.
We DO NOT need a 24-hour News channel. There's not any more news happening, so you're left trying to big up stories and dig out from other areas stories that will at least fill the gaps. And you're still repeating the same freaking news every 15 minutes... STOP IT!