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Content cuts help keep BBC on track to save £1bn in 2021, report finds

Written by on 17 December 2021

Cuts in content and scope services saved the BBC £1bn this year, a National Audit Office (NAO) report has found.

The Corporation reduced the amount of new broadcast television offered to licence fee payers and the number of repeats shown across its three main TV channels increased, the NAO revealed.

There was a 22% increase in repeat programming on BBC 1, which was said to be part of its strategy for addressing a change in viewing habits while working within a finite budget.

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Until September 2021, the BBC tried to limit reductions in TV and radio content it offers.

However, the BBC estimated that 41% of its annual savings would come from cuts to content and the scope of services.

The NAO forecast also suggested that 12% of savings would come from income generation and 11% from changes to the scheduling mix.

But the BBC did increase accessibility to content by extending the time that programmes are available on iPlayer and launching BBC Sounds.

In the report, it said the BBC is forecast to exceed its original savings target of £800m and is on track to meet its increased target of £1bn a year.

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Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, said: “Over the past decade the BBC has consistently made savings and is largely on course to achieve its £1bn annual savings target by 2021-22.

“However, over the coming years, it will need to make significant further savings at the same time as addressing a range of other challenges, not least its declining audience share.

“The BBC must ensure its savings plans do not further erode its position with audiences.”

The report also found that the BBC plan to embark on a new savings programme from 2022 to 2023 which would require further reductions to content and services across operations.

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However, it is negotiating the level of the licence fee for 2022 with the government and the outcome of negotiations could increase the savings it will need to deliver.

A statement from the BBC said: “The NAO report concludes the BBC has made nearly £1bn in savings over the last five years – significantly higher than our initial £800 million target – and continues to be the UK’s most-used media organisation.

“We will continue to focus on modernising, improving efficiency and prioritising spending on a range of high-quality content to ensure value for money for all licence-fee payers.”

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