For most people in the United Kingdom, the BBC is an institution, a way of life. For those outside of Blighty, the British Broadcasting Company speaks of a perfect British accent, a global eye on the world’s affairs and a sense of critical, objective examination that’s not afraid to turn on anyone – not even itself. The journalists, presenters, producers and writers that make up the radio, television and increasingly online divisions of the BBC are those at the top of their game and the calibre of material leaving their HQ reflects this.
But who funds these ever-increasing channels of communication and just how much is the BBC worth? Well, the British Broadcasting Company – to give the BBC its full title – is actually a public company and as such receives funding from both the government and the public. When Britons pay their TV licences they are paying for the upkeep and maintenance of this thoroughly British institution. Other partnerships and sources of income also exist for the Beeb and the total amount of cash coming from these different divisions is a lot more than you may think. Information is Beautiful has taken look at the publicly available accounts at the BBC to see how and where this money is being made and spent: from local radio to international productions, it’s all in there. Whether it’s the BBC World Service you’re listening to or whether you’re simply watching episodes of Sherlock on Netflix, you could well be enjoying one of BBC’s many assets. So where does the BBC spend, and where do they make their money? We’ve summed it all up here in 10 figures on the internal workings of this media giant.
10. BBC Orchestras: $49 Million
With the year’s spending for orchestras at the BBC at $49 million, that’s an awful lot of music. The millions are going towards the many local, national and digital radio stations, not to mention the BBC Proms festival that happens every August in Britain. There’s spending on musicians, recording and editing equipment, transportation and a variety of staff to manage to run productions. It is also noted in the BBC’s published report of spending for 2013 that “orchestras” also takes in performers such as singers, dancers and other performing groups.
9. Switch to Digital: $94 Million
If you lived in the UK during 2012 and 2013 you will most definitely be aware that something called the “Digital Switchover” occurred at the BBC. What this basically means is that rather than the television stations being transmitted to viewers by an analogue signal, it is now a digital one, and householders consequently had to make changes to their home viewing systems. Information leaflets, television campaigns, and numerous hardware and software updates later, the digital switchover has been completed. The $94 million project actually came in at $678 million under budget, keeping everyone happy.
8. London Olympics Rights: $111 Million
The 2012 summer Olympic and Paralympic Games were – as anyone in the UK will tell you – a phenomenal success in creating a sense of community and togetherness in the city. Hundreds of people volunteered their time to ensure the Games were a success and millions in the UK alone tuned in cheer on Team GB. Of course we were all watching the Olympics and regardless of what country we were cheering on, someone had to pay for the rights and logistics of broadcasting these events. The figure of $111 million was the cost to the BBC of covering the games, which took place in multiple locations around London as well as outside the city. This does not, however, include the fees for sports rights which will be factored in a little further down our list…
7. BBC4: $118 Million
BBC4 is one of the newer channels launched by the BBC in recent years. Launched in 2002, the channel’s focus is on arts and culture and it has already won several awards for its content including Digital Channel of the Year. If you’re a fan of the BBC documentaries which frequently pop up on Netflix around the world, chances are they were originally screened on BBC 4 in the UK. The channel’s success doesn’t mean it’s immune to changes at the network: Only this year BBC3 (the second digital channel also launched in 2002) was scaled back and the Director General has not ruled out other sure moves for BBC4 in the future. For the moment, however, its praises are still being sung and the BBC is still funnelling money to the channel – $118 million last year.
6. Local Radio: $256 Million
In this ever-connected age, the humble world of radio is overlooked by many- not by the BBC, though. Like many national broadcasters the BBC began life as a radio broadcaster in London in 1922. What started as a London radio station has expanded into a global network of music, discussion, drama and events. The BBC operates at a local, national and international level for radio and for many these broadcasts are as important as the television output from the network. The BBC World Service station is an international institution of high-quality reporting and criticism. Many of Britain’s finest actors can be heard on the radio waves of the BBC: everyone’s favourite Benedict Cumberbatch has collaborated on numerous BBC radio dramas. The BBC’s radio stations are the gold standard for radio broadcasting quality, and that quality doesn’t come cheap at over $250 million annually.
5. BBC Online: $297 Million
It’s not surprising that the BBC’s online spending is considerable: what may be unexpected, however, is the fact that the Beeb only spends $1 million more on their online efforts than they do on their radio network. A sign perhaps that old habits die hard?
4. BBC World Service Government Grant: $466 Million
While many individual projects and indeed channels in Britain receive government grants, the award to the World Service is testament to the veneration in which the station is still held. For many the reporting of the World Service is firmly associated with the WWII when their network of reporters were vital in transmitting events to the public across the globe. These days, of course, the World Service is more than just a radio station – it encompasses all of the BBC’s global news reporting for radio, television and online, including their news channels and services in foreign languages. The sheer size of the operation is one of the main reasons for their huge budget. The editorial independence of the World Service is so precious that it is protected by Royal Charter. Well, if it’s good enough for the Queen…
3. Commercial Business: $1.5 Billion
With all this talk of spending at the Beeb, you may be wondering where exactly the BBC are getting their income outside of course of those generous government grants. Well, here is the first of many answers. Last year the BBC had an income of over $1 billion from “commercial business,” which is actually a drop of 2.2% from the previous year. So what exactly does something as vague as “commercial business” actually mean? Partnering and sponsorship would be a massive part of this (although it’s worth noting the BBC does not allow external advertisers on any of its stations). Plenty of money has come, too, from other networks acquiring the rights to BBC productions. If you don’t live in an area where the BBC broadcasts, that doesn’t meant you’ve never seen one of their productions. Successful dramas such as Doctor Who, Sherlock, Luther Blackadder and Torchwood all began life at the BBC.
2. Licence Fees: $6.17 Billion
This is the second major area where the BBC earns it’s cash: the public. As the national broadcaster, the British public’s money contributes to the development and upkeep of the BBC and all its networks. If you live in the UK and own a television -or, more recently, if you have internet access and stream from BBC iPlayer – you are required to pay what’s known as a TV licence. The cost is £145.50 or $245 USD. Discounts are available for the elderly, those living on low incomes, or those living with other exceptional circumstances.
1. Total Income: $8.6 Billion
In total, the BBC made $8.6 billion last year, a phenomenal amount for any broadcaster and evidence of the continued demand for the services of this now almost-100 year old institution. Alongside the licences fees and commercial business, the BBC also generates money by earning profits from their high profile events, their cinema releases, donations, selling the rights to their own productions and back catalogues and BBC retail sales of books, DVDs and their magazine, The Radio Times. If you’re thinking of a career in broadcasting then the BBC could be the place for you. It certainly has plenty of cash flying around, provided you’re in the right department. The top dog at the BBC last year received a salary of $757,935. A decent amount, but admittedly significantly less than many of the salaries offered by cable television networks in the United States. As anyone in the BBC would of course tell you, the quality of the service they give their viewers, is of course priceless. Well, priceless aside from that licence fee!