BBC 'Back on Its Feet After a Very Bruising Period,' Chair Says

3:35 AM PST 07/21/2014 by Georg Szalai
Luke Macgregor/Reuters
BBC director general Tony Hall

UPDATED: In its annual report, the governing body of the U.K. public broadcaster lauds cost cuts and lower severance payouts, but says the continuing "gender imbalance" must be addressed.

LONDON – The BBC in its annual report, published on Monday, said that it has rebounded after a challenging period. 
 
Acting BBC Trust chair Diane Coyle said: "This past year, the BBC, led by its new director general [Tony Hall], has got back on its feet after a very bruising period and there have been numerous program highlights."
 
 
She added: "The BBC executive has made good progress on its priorities for the past 12 months, and we are expecting further progress in the next year on areas including further improvements in the variety and originality of programs, value for money and serving an increasingly diverse U.K."
 
In a summary of the annual report, the governing body of the U.K. public broadcaster said the BBC "has achieved some notable successes in a challenging environment, both in its programming and in saving money."
 
Programming highlights in 2013/2014 that the broadcaster highlighted included the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special, which was broadcast in 98 countries in 15 languages, and Andy Murray's win at Wimbledon last summer.
 
It also highlighted that "the BBC has continued to reduce the amount it spends on talent and total costs are down by 15 percent since 2008, when the current [cost cutting] strategy was first introduced."
 
 
The BBC also said it has made progress on executive severance payments, which have drawn criticism and led to promises to cap them. They amounted to $43.8 million (£25.6 million) in the latest fiscal year, down from $68.7 million (£40.2 million) last year.
 
The BBC also said it has saved $638.6 million (£374 million) per year in overall costs and is on track to achieve the £700 million savings target set to be reached by 2016/2017.
 
Said Hall: "It's been a fantastic year for the BBC, with 96 percent of the U.K. choosing to watch, listen or use BBC services, quite an achievement for any public service organization. But I think we can do better and this year we've announced how we are going to change the BBC to produce more distinctive programs, ensure the BBC truly reflects all of our audiences and provide even better value for money for the license fee payer."
 
The BBC Trust, however, said that the BBC needs to do more to address a continuing "gender imbalance," including in on-air representation and in terms of pay. 
 
The annual report said that audiences spent 18.5 hours with the BBC every week and, despite continuing budget cuts, have continued to rate the quality of content offered highly.
 
BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the broadcaster, reported a full-year profit of $268.8 million (£157.4 million), up 0.7 percent. Pre-tax profit, excluding the effects of asset sales, was down 2.5 percent, though. 
 
Revenue dropped 6.6 percent to $1.78 billion (£1.04 billion) as revenue was partly hit by the sale last year of travel guide firm Lonely Planet. Excluding that and other special factors would have left BBC Worldwide revenue "broadly flat," the company said. 
 
BBC Worldwide reported $151.8 million (£88.9 million) in total investments in BBC-commissioned productions, up 19.5 percent from the previous year.
 
Email: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai
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