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Study: BBC Contributes $13.3 Billion to U.K. Economy

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A study commissioned by the British public broadcaster says it gave back nearly twice the amount it gets from an annual license fee from taxpayers.

LONDON -- The BBC contributed about $13.3 billion (£8.3 billion) to the U.K. economy during 2011 and 2012, up 4 percent from the previous two-year period, according to a report ordered by the British public broadcaster.

It concluded that the BBC gave back nearly twice the amount it gets from an annual license fee from U.K. taxpayers.

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Higher boosts to the economy in northern England were partially offset by a drop in economic benefits in other parts of England, as well as Wales, according to the report.

The economic benefits come from the BBC's direct spending of $6.9 billion (£4.3 billion) on its TV, radio, online and other activities, plus trickle-down effects on other businesses.

U.K. pay TV giant BSkyB, in which Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. owns a 39 percent stake, last year said that it contributed $8.4 billion (£5.4 billion) to the U.K.’s gross domestic product for 2011.

Over the latest two-year-period, the economic boost the BBC provided to the north of England rose 19.7 percent to $627 million (£391 million), the report found. The broadcaster has invested in operations and productions in the North.

However, the BBC continues to spend most in the British capital. Its direct spending here amounted to nearly $4.8 billion (£2.98 billion) for the latest year, according to the economic impact study. That meant a total economic boost to London of $9 billion (£5.65 billion).

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John Tate, BBC director, policy and strategy, argued that the broadcaster's economic benefits provided a strong argument against U.K. media regulator Ofcom's plans to charge broadcasters a spectrum tax starting next year. "The wider benefit of the license fee provides an extra reason for Ofcom to think again before it implements a spectrum tax next year -- a levy on the spectrum broadcasters use to transmit their programs," he said in a blog post. "Such a tax would remove much-needed cash from the U.K.'s creative sector."

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai