At Holyrood, MSPs on the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee who took evidence from BBC executives regarding the BBC’s Annual Report and Accounts 2017-18 were astonished to discover that the share of the BBC licence fee raised in Scotland that is spent here had fallen over the previous year from 72.4 to 68.8%.
This means that £101.1 million less was spent by the BBC than was raised in Scotland. In Wales, the difference was 7.7% (£14.7 million) and in northern Ireland 12% (£11.1 million).
Committee member Kenneth Gibson MSP commented:
“It is shocking that Scotland is still the poor relation in the UK with regard to BBC investment and expenditure, subsidising London to the tune of £101.1 million last year. Our headcount is lower even than Wales, which has barely half our population, at 2,032 whole time equivalents, compared to Wales’ 2,158.
“Needless to say, London is somewhat different, with 48.9% of BBC expenditure, around 350% of what is raised there in licence fees.
“Is it any wonder that, according to Ofcom’s annual report on the BBC published on 25 October, only 52% of people in Scotland had a favourable overall impression of the BBC, compared to 64% of all UK adults.
“Clearly, a rebalancing is needed but it is slow progress. A new Scottish channel to launch early next year will have a budget of £32 million but, as yet, no high quality drama commissioned to fill any of its five hours a day of broadcasting.
“BBC executives said they ‘hoped’ to ‘eventually’ increase the share of licence fee expenditure in Scotland to 80% of that raised, leaving us still well behind the other nations of the UK. This lack of ambition matters; TV production keeps talented people in Scotland, attracts more to work here, improves the quality and variety of programming, with fewer repeats and boosts the Scottish economy. I would urge the BBC to raise its sights higher; to 100%. Investing more in the new TV channel and committing to the delivery of high quality output would be a start.”
The table below shows BBC income, spend and number of people employed by the BBC in the devolved nations in financial year 2017-18.
Income includes only licence fees, not income derived from the supply of services and facilities, such as the rental of studio space and/or crew. The licence fees are the major form of income for the BBC.
Of the three Celtic nations, Scotland still has the lowest percentage of the income it raises, via licences fees, spent within the nation.
The BBC spends 68.8% of the licence fees collected in Scotland on services in Scotland, in 2016-17 this figure was 72.4%. This ratio is lower than in Wales and Northern Ireland where it spent 92.3% and 88% respectively in 2017-18.
Source: Scottish Parliament Information Centre calculations using BBC Annual Report and Accounts 2017/18, BBC in Scotland
The BBC representatives at Committee were:
Anne Bulford, Deputy Director-General, BBC;
Donalda MacKinnon, Director, BBC Scotland;
Steve Morrison, Board Member for Scotland, BBC.