Scope of the inquiry
The BBC spent £1.092 million on its 21,500 full time staff in 2017-2018. Yet in recent years, questions have been raised by the media, Parliament and the public over the BBC’s pay policies and the fairness of its practices.
From 2014 onwards, the BBC undertook a series of wide-ranging reforms to standardise and simplify its workforce management. In 2016, the corporate developed a new job framework for staff: 5,000 job titles were refined into 600 jobs across six pay bands and managers were given less control over pay and allowances. The framework resulted in 9% of public service broadcasting staff having pay ranges higher than the market median, 87% of PSB staff being in line with the market median and 4% being lower.
A recent National Audit Office (NAO) report has concluded that while the BBC has improved the consistency and transparency of its staff pay and working practices, it now needs to have a much stronger oversight of its costs at the most senior levels of the organisation.
The reforms are expected to deliver a net saving of £4.9 million over seven years, which is less than 0.1% of the total staff pay-bill over the period. Although the BBC have said that the cost was not a driving factor for the changes, it is still yet to estimate the financial savings still anticipated from the wider benefits of the changes.
The NAO report found no evidence that the BBC has put in place sufficient arrangements for ensuring detailed oversight and challenge of the costs and savings involved in the workforce reforms. The report also emphasises the need for ‘culture change’ amongst directors. This is alongside a lack of regular central oversight of total spend on on-air roles.
Furthermore, the BBC’s gender pay gap has been a long-running concern for its staff. The NAO report found that the gap reduced from 9.3% in 2017, down to 7.6% in 2018. This is better than the national average and most media organisations. In 2017, the BBC committed to closing its gender pay gap by 2020, however it later refined this target in April 2018 to a gap of plus or minus 3%.
On Wednesday 11 September, the Public Accounts Committee will question Lord Tony Hall, BBC Director General, on what action has been taken to manage the corporation’s pay-bill and investigate how it plans to maintain oversight over costs and savings. The Committee will also consider areas of improvement that are still necessary.