BBC annual report shows increased staff numbers and higher talent spend than last year

Corporation bosses defend numbers saying content reached 97 per cent of all UK adults over the financial year and that the BBC is on track to deliver its cumulative £1.5bn of savings by 2017 under the Delivering Quality First programme

The BBC’s staff numbers and talent spend are up on the previous year despite the Corporation’s commitment to reducing costs, according to today’s BBC annual report

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The total full-time staff numbers are at 18,974 this year compared with 18,674 in the previous 12 months. The amount spent on on-screen and on-air talent has also increased from £194.23m in 2013/14 to £208.49m in 2014/15.

The figures make difficult reading for a BBC which faces a potentially debilitating new charter and will add fuel to claims from its critics that it is over-staffed.

However, the Corporation says that the increases in talent spend are partly explained by the fact that this year’s figures take into account the BBC World Service. The World Service began being funded by licence fee money in April 2014 after decades of being paid for by a grant from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. However, the report does not contain details of how much is spent on World Service talent compared with the main domestic BBC services.

The BBC also pointed out that it is within their target of overall talent spend. In 2014 the BBC committed itself to spending no more than 16 per cent on talent and the current figure represents 12.2 per cent of content spend.

The report also notes that all BBC content reached 97 per cent of all UK adults over the financial year and pointed out that the Corporation is on track to deliver its cumulative £1.5bn of savings by 2017 under the Delivering Quality First programme.

BBC Trust chair Rona Fairhead’s verdict on the report was also positive.

She said: “Over the course of the past year, BBC has had notable successes on screen and on air… and made good progress in delivering savings with more in the pipeline.”

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Dramas Wolf Hall and Poldark were among the shows singled out for praise in the report which noted that 85 per cent of all UK adults watch at least 15 minutes of BBC TV each week.