BBC reduced spend on talent by £6 million last year, annual report reveals

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The BBC spent £6 million less on talent in 2013/14, the Corporation’s latest annual report claims, with a £194 million bill for its star presenters and performers, compared with £200 million in the previous year.

It represents a 15% fall in wages over the past five years.

The savings were part of wider cost-cutting measures that slashed £374 million from the BBC’s outgoings in a fourth successive year of standstill income from television licence fees. Over the past two years total savings have amounted to £954 million with a further £426 million targeted by 2016/17.

Acting chairman Diane Coyle said the savings addressed recent controversies that “saw the BBC fall well sort of what license-fee payers expect” over talent fees, excessive severance payments for departing executives and a £100 million write-off of a digital media initiative.

In his first full year as director-general, Tony Hall said the savings were enabling the BBC to “live within our means” while also pledging a 4% increase in spending on programmes and delivery over the next three years.

The report also revealed that while the Corporation had made marginal improvement towards meeting its 12.5% employment target for black, Asian and minority ethnic staff, it fell short in addressing diversity issues in relation to disabled staff and to a fairer on-screen gender balance.

Although drama and entertainment output fell across the BBC’s television and radio portfolio – from 4,971 hours to 4,932 and from 7,796 to 7,654 hours respectively – music and arts programming enjoyed a boost in the number of hours broadcast.