A National Audit Report has warned that new market entrants, such as Netflix, might hamper the BBC’s attempt to reduce the wage bill of on-screen talent.
Managing the BBC’s pay bill shows the BBC reduced spending by PSB on those in on-air roles from £194.2 million to £147.6 million between 2013-14 and 2017-18. It was able to maintain overall spending on those roles below its target of no more than 15% of expenditure on original in-house content.
Pressure comes from drama where actors can command a fee “significantly more” through working on commercial channels than for the BBC. The NAO says it was told by agents that the very best sports pundits working for commercial channels could earn four to seven times the amount the BBC can pay for television, depending on the sport and rights package, and presenters 15%–25% more for radio, depending on the artist and project.
Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, said today: “The BBC has made some extensive reforms to its staff pay-bill and is now well ahead of other organisations with regards to pay transparency and the gender pay gap. However, these positive developments would be reinforced by a visible cycle of oversight and challenge by the Board, which we did not find to be clearly evidenced”.
From 2016, the BBC has developed a new job framework for staff, including senior managers. 5,000 job titles were grouped into 600 jobs across six pay bands.
The BBC welcomed the report, also highlighting progress that has been made in the gender pay-gap. “We are pleased that the NAO recognises that the BBC is “well ahead of other organisations with regards to pay transparency”, which is consistent with the findings from the two recent independent reviews published earlier this year.
Included in the NAO’s recommendations is that the BBC should ensure it has full central oversight and challenge of key data, including the costs and benefits of its terms and conditions reforms, to track the ongoing value for money of its staff pay-bill.